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Abstract:
This autobiography/memoir of a Bahai over seven decades of teaching and international travel is one of the few extensive personal accounts of the experience of a Western Bahai beginning in the second epoch (1944-1963) of the Formative Age.
Notes:
Part 1:

This autobiographical study begins at the start of the first three North American and global teaching Plans of: 1937, 1946, & 1953, respectively. This study integrates a lifespan, his projected lifespan, 1944 to 2044, his life-narrative, into the context of the history of the Bahai community back to 1743, the year of the birth of that Babi Faith's chief precursor Shaykh Ahmad. The author includes over 2000 references from the humanities and social sciences within the western intellectual tradition. His account goes through to the year 2044, and the end of the 2nd century of the Baha'i Era.

Part 2:

This work draws on many studies of autobiography and biography, life-narratives, memoirs and diaries, as well as a broad range of experience, to analyse this author's society, his Faith, his community and himself in those critical first eight decades of organized and systematic teaching plans, 1936 to 2016. It is his hope that he will be able to extend this study of his personal experience and the teaching plans until at least 2036, when he will be in his 90s, and possibly until 2044 when he will have reached the age of 100. Time, of course, will tell.

Readers will find here at Baha'i Library Online(BLO) the introductory sections, Parts 1, 2 and 3, of the author's epic 2500 page five volume 7th edition. These three Parts, now sub-divided into 6 separate sections, are an abridged, truncated and necessarily provisional edition for BLO. This section, this post at BLO, is Part 3.2 and, as the title suggests, the entire work is a study of autobiography as a genre, an analysis of its process and its content, as much as if not more than, a study of the author's life, his society and his religion. The Office of Review of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States has given him permission to post this work in its current form on the Internet.

Part 3:

The 3rd edition of this document was originally posted at BLO in 2003. A hard copy was placed in the Baha'i World Centre library also in 2003; that 3rd edition has now been edited and revised many times in the dozen years since 2003. The current edition, the 7th, was posted here at BLO in celebration of the 50th anniversary, in April 2013, of the first election of the Universal House of Justice in April 1963. This document is now in the early stages of an 8th edition. This 8th edition is envisaged to be published in its final form hopefully here at BLO in April 2021 at the end of the first century of the Formative Age if, as the author points out, he lasts that long. In 2021 he will be 77, and in 2044 he will be 100, the end of the 2nd century of the Baha'i Era.

Part 4:

In some ways this autobiography is simply a form of self-reflection and writing known as auto-ethnography since this work explores the author's personal experience and also connects his autobiographical story to wider cultural & political, sociological & psychological meanings & understandings. This account differs from ethnography which is a qualitative research method in which a researcher uses participant observation and interviews in order to gain a deeper understanding of a group's culture. Auto-ethnography focuses on: (i) the writer's subjective experience in interaction with the beliefs and practices of others, (ii) research and writing, (iii) story and method. The author's aim, among many, is to connect the autobiographical and personal to the cultural, social, and political. This is the core of auto-ethnography.

Part 5:

Analytical auto-ethnographers focus on developing theoretical explanations of broader social phenomena; auto-ethnographers like this author also focus on narrative presentations that aim to open-up conversations & evoke responses from others. As part of the author's prefatory work, he takes his family history and his historical commentary on society, as well as on this latest of the Abrahamic religions, back to the century 1753 to 1844, the precursor period of the Babi Revelation. He then continues into the century 1844 to 1944, the year he was born in Canada. He then takes his readers through the 2nd century of the Baha'i Era, from 1944 to 2044.

In putting this account together the author deals with some 15 generations of history, of his family, of the Babi-Baha'i religions and the Babi Faith's precursor period. That's a total of 300 years, from 1743 to 2044. This series of volumes attempts to integrate the experience of these generations into a coherent whole. After more than 30 years of working on this vast expanse of history and personal experience, he feels he has just begun. This is one of the many works which this author and editor, online blogger and journalist is now working on as he goes through his last years on Earth.


Pioneering Over Four Epochs:
An Autobiographical Study and A Study In Autobiography: Part 3.2

by Ron Price

2014-02
original written in English.
VOLUME FIVE

CHAPTER EIGHT

SOME FINAL NOTES ON THE NOTION OF PERSONA

Part 1:

In order to address new forms of chiefly digital self-representation that go beyond the printed book, scholars working in the field of auto/biography studies have proposed the concept of “auto-media” as an alternative to terms such as autobiography, life writing or life narrative. Leading memoir and life narrative theorist Julie Rak (2013) argues that the concept of autobiography—and the ways that scholars have approached the genre—has been dominated by ideas of “narrative” and “writing” that are ill-suited to reading and analysing many online modes of self-representation. This book is but one of my digital modes of self-representation. I had trouble using Facebook and Twitter for autobiography in the traditional sense. Those website performances of self-identity did not demonstrate, at least for me, ways in which I could take-up technology in order to engage in the business of autobiographical representation. Those websites were not able to deal with the cultural understandings of selfhood and what it means to “live” a “life” in any personally meaningful ways. Rak proposes that these texts, which move beyond the medium of the written word, and which are not necessarily crafted (or read) as a story or narrative, might be studied not as autobiography but instead as automedia. That is fine with me. I utilize a website and many other websites for autobiographical purposes, and so the term auto-media as applied to my writing of autobiography is appropriate.

Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson point to auto-media as a way of approaching autobiographical texts in a way that emphasizes how the telling or mediation of a life actually shapes the kind of story that can be told about it. They state that “media cannot simply be conceptualized as “tools” for presenting a preexisting, essential self. Media technologies do not just transparently present the self. They constitute and expand it”. But they did not do so for me, and so it was that I required more expansive forms of autobiography like this book.

I do not think that automedia as an approach to autobiographical texts need be limited to digital media—after all, books are still media. But the modes of self-representation being taken up in online contexts present scholars with urgent questions about what it means to represent life and the self in increasingly social, networked, multi-media ways. The author website is an increasingly valuable tool for making writers visible as authors in online environments; but how are they auto-medial? By creating a mediated construction of an authorial persona that functions as a space in which readers, or to be more inclusive, internet users, can move around and experience the author’s mediated persona, the author website draws on strategies of auto/biographical representation in order to respond to a demand for personal access to the author. The author website works to create an often interactive space of contact between the writer as author and the public, where an audience, or internet user, is able to explore the author as he or she is constructed by his or her website.

Part 2:

From a symbolic interaction perspective, C. H. Cooley develops the mirror analogy in his Looking Glass Self concept. For Cooley, the self develops in relation to how it imagines that we look to others; we learn to see others as our “mirror.” Our reflection in their perceptions requires us to imagine how we appear to others and then how they judge our appearance. Finally, we develop a sense of ourselves based on that judgement. Thus, others with whom we interact reflect us back to ourselves and we view our self from the viewpoint of others whose signs we learn to interpret. Two consequences arise. First, we could receive different reflections back from different individuals. Second, we become habituated to a gap between performance of self, its reception, and the reflection of that performance back to us.

Erving Goffman’s work on self-presentation and interaction rituals offers further dimensions to understanding this process, stressing the importance of impression management to monitor inconsistencies in performance of the self as it appears to others. For Goffman, this management occurs both before the performance as we prepare ourselves in the back stage, and on the front stage as we perform for our audience. Social interaction is thus a performance, governed by social rules and rituals understood by both audience and performer. The dialectic relationship between performance and its reception introduces an element of intentionality to the performance itself. When the performance is not well received, for example, its reflection back to the performer may lead to adjustments in the performance to correct flaws brought about by failure to appropriately follow the rules of interaction. Through interaction with others, therefore, we learn dramaturgically appropriate roles and performances and we come to understand the nuances involved in successful enactment. The “audience” for whom we perform may be either internalised or actual. In either case, the image that we see in the mirror, and the image we imagine reflected back is both “us” and something more. But it is unhelpful to think of the internalised and actual as dichotomous.

All three models so far discussed intuit a space between performance and reflection, suggesting that we experience our self through “symbols, language, social structures, and situated variables of social interaction” rather than directly. Even our image in an actual mirror extends, then, beyond the tain by which the glass is backed because we overlay what we see in the mirror with social nuances arising outside of the image-reflection dyad. Rather than consider this image a reflection of “us,” it is helpful to think of it as a persona—the personality (or presence) that a person adopts and presents to other people. It may be “our” persona in that it is linked to a physical person, but, as noted above, it may also be contextually multiple and variously mediated through social interaction and symbols such as dress.

SOCIAL TOPICS OF RELEVANCE

Part 1:

Readers will find below a series of prose-poems on topics of individual and social concern involving history and issues of contemporary relevance. Although my autobiography, in its six parts here at BLO, had set out in its first years, the decade from 1984 to 1994, to explore the history and issues of these last four epochs of the Formative Age of the international Bahá'í community, I don't think this work has examined these issues quite as comprehensively as I wanted. When I set out on my autobiographical path and its memoiristic writing journey more than 30 years ago in January of 1984, I had only a very rough idea of what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go as I surveyed my life, my religion and my society. I set out somewhat like the novelist and poet Philip Michael Ondaatje(1943-).

In 1970 Ondaatje settled in Toronto, and from 1971 to 1990, he taught English literature at York University and Glendon College. I did not know of Ondaatje back in 1970 when i was planning to leave Canada for Australia. I did not come to know about him until I taught creative writing and literature in the 1990s. Ondaatje is a Sri Lankan-born Canadian who has won the Booker Prize for his novel The English Patient (1992), a novel which was adapted as a 1996 film of the same name, and which won multiple Academy Awards. This novelist, in describing how he went about his craft, said he does not plan his books; they just grow & he works it out as he goes along.

I have always had a general plan but, for the most part, I worked out the details as I went along. I did not have the problem that, say, James Joyce had with his novel Ulysses when it came out in the early 1920s. Joyce's novel, its plot, took place place over one day and was without the usual sequence of grand events; it was not a work with an obvious genre. His work was a new, avant-garde literary invention. It was not so arcane as to be totally indecipherable to all who came upon it. Calmly the central character went about his business on a sunny day in June: cooking breakfast, attending a funeral, having lunch, negotiating with a client, sitting on the beach, wandering in Dublin. This was like Homer's Ulysses who had once wandered in the Mediterranean during his long journey home, but these wanderings were in a very different place and they all took place on one day. My autobiography also contains a lot of wandering but, unlike Joyce's Ulysses, who eventually returns to his home, I never return home.

As early as 1914, Ezra Pound had praised the stories in one of Joyce's earlier works, Dubliners, precisely for his refusal of plot in the traditional, the normal, way that a novelist does. “Life for the most part," said Pound, "does not happen in neat little diagrams and nothing is more tiresome than the continual pretense in a novel that it does.” The absence of plot was not the only problem Joyce brought to his readers. There was also the craziness of the technique, the obscenity, and the pornography for many of the more conservative and traditional of readers. My work does not test the reader to anything like the same extent as Joyce's Ulysses. Joyce discovered that everything could be said; there was nothing that could not be transformed into language. “His writing is not about something,” Samuel Beckett would famously write, “it is that something itself.” Joyce tried to make language become what it describes. I, too, play with language, but my game is not the same, indeed, it is hardly like the game played by James Joyce.

I include in this chapter, this section of this now five-volume work, some prose-poems to compensate for the many inadequacies of the text thus far. It is impossible for any soul to possess the "qualification of comprehensive knowledge" that 'Abdu'l-Bahá speaks of in His Secret of Divine Civilization, although some members of the Bahai community, to say nothing of many other communities of individuals and especially communities of scholars, seem to have acquired an amazing breadth of knowledge as indicated by their published oeuvre.

In these volumes of my autobiography I would like to assemble sentences the way Mozart assembled melodies. I would like my style to feel effortless, concise, and joyful to readers who come upon them. I would like this now lengthy book to be stuffed full of uproarious anecdotes, the way the Australian literary critic and author Clive James's memoirs are in his several autobiographical volumes. Sadly, I can not match James, nor his encounters with big names such as Peter Sellers and Burt Lancaster. His writings are so exquisitely structured that some readers would even want to read them aloud to friends. James's skills are not mine and, of course, I am no Mozart.

James's humour is rarely intended just for laughs; he employs mirth to make his psychological or cultural insights more engaging. While the foibles of the famous provide undeniable comic opportunities, James's vignettes invariably steer readers to one of his central themes: how fame can lead to psychological corruption, fanaticism and loneliness. After more than 40 years in Australia, a country where humour is just about compulsory, I am learning slowly from my fellow Australians and from Clive James, a master of the light and the humorous. The longer I work on this now excessively long autobiography, the more I am aware of the utter impossibility to writing it. I now have several volumes of text and context, but I am more than a little aware of how much I have left out and, indeed, the impossibility of writing a comprehensive work.

Part 2:

Humorous writing does not come easily to me. By the time I had been in Australia for half a dozen years or so, humor had made its entrance into my daily life, if not my writing, and it helped me survive life's battles, but not eliminate them. I have also found many subjects, like economics, quite beyond me, beginning with the two weeks in September 1963 when I enrolled in an introductory economics course as part of my BA program, before withdrawing and taking Spanish in its stead. The physical sciences, especially physics, have always eluded me and the biological sciences seemed to possess an enormous and intricate specialized vocabulary. Foreign languages after my eighteenth birthday became quite uninteresting and a seeming waste of my time. That Spanish course was dropped after a month of trying to memorize a long and tiresome vocabulary. I had no intentions of moving to and living in a Spanish speaking part of the world, and so I picked-up geography &, in 1966, got my BA. It was late in 1966 that my graduation ceremony was held on a cold winter evening in November in Ontario's Golden Horseshoe. By then, also in late 1966, the Rolling Stones 1st LP was recorded "Got Live if you Want It"; John Lennon first met Yoko Ono at an avante-garde art exposition at Indica Gallery in London; and Muhammad Ali TKOd Cleveland Williams in 3 for the heavyweight title--to chose 3 events from the world of sports and entertainment which, until then, had been an important part of my life.

Mechanical subjects, trades areas, engineering, mathematics and many other disciplines and sub-disciplines and, in the more than 60 years of my association with the Bahá'í Faith, a burgeoning list of material I moved by sensible and insensible degrees to the periphery of my life. All these domains of knowledge danced around in a region of nearly total obscurity at least until I took an early retirement at the age of 55 in 1999. So it was that, until the 21st century, whatever contribution these subjects might make to an understanding of social problems was lost to me. During my retirement from FT, PT and most volunteer work, though, beginning in the years of 55 to 60, the last years of middle age according to one model of human development used by psychologists, I began to make-up for the many deficiencies in the physical, applied and biological sciences, and in mathematics. The 7th edition of my website is an indication of some of my more recent efforts to broaden my knowledge base after a 50 year student and working life: 1949 to 1999.

I make some of the statements that I have done in the last two paragraphs because, not only are there many subjects and fields that I know little about and have little to no interest in, but there are many aspects of both the Bahá'í Faith and the general society in which I live, both past and present, that I can not possibly include in this massive work. I have taken an interest in several writers who have tried to bite off more than they could chew because I think I have become such a writer, but only in relation to this autobiography and perhaps one other piece of my writing on the Bahá'í culture of learning. Ezra Pound is one example. He spent half a century writing his Cantos. The Cantos is a long, incomplete poem in 120 sections, each of which is a canto. Most of it was written between 1915 and 1962, although much of the early work was abandoned and the early cantos, as finally published, date from 1922 onwards. It is a book-length work, widely considered to present formidable difficulties to the reader. The Cantos is generally considered one of the most significant works of modernist poetry in the 20th century. As in Pound's prose writing, the themes of economics, governance and culture are integral to the work's content. In my writing, the themes of autobiography, of the Bahá'í Faith, and great pieces of the social sciences and the humanities blend and sway throughout my work.

Part 3:

I draw on a wide but still, and inevitably, limited field of knowledge, limited to the social sciences and humanities for the most part, for the following poems. I lower myself into what I like to think is my "divinely ordained solitude," not like a swimmer into freezing water as the poet Rilke did, but into some river where prose-poems arrive as they did to Rilke: suddenly, in urgent bursts, like visitations. A crystalline voice does not ring through the gale, as it did with Rilke but, rather, like a baby arriving down the birth canal with a release of a weight, a strain, a train, of thought which falls onto the paper. These poems seem part of a great granary; each poem has its own afterlife, an afterlife that I discover serendipitously as the days and the years go by. Some of this afterlife is blissful, joyful and some has a plainness, an everyday simplicity that is as ordinary as the quite ordinary life I have lived in many respects. The afterlife of any piece of my writing is my own; the meaning is my own and, if readers find something helpful or pleasurable here, that is a bonus for me and a win for them.

Among the many pleasures of my now lengthy life, especially in these years of my retirement from all forms of paid employment, FT, PT and casual, from 2006 to 2015, is the subtle and not-so-subtle, frequent and infrequent, often delightful and surprising, always engaging, ways in which prose and poetry began to land on my intellectual and creative doorstop. A creative and pleasurable connection is often made in my writing thanks, perhaps, to what had been by, say, 1993/4, a 50-year incubation of my literary talents. That incubation began to yield, through the first years of the 1990s, a complex set of riches which, in these years of my late adulthood(2004 to 2024: 60 to 80), began to yield a vast readership. Fame and my cyberspace readership by 2015, as I write these words, are measured in nanoseconds across a vast landscape that is as obscure and mysterious as it is quantifiable in its enticing clicks and hits. I now have millions of readers--something quite unimaginable back in the distant 20th century.

Part 4:

"Never underestimate the steel of the true artist," I read recently as the opening sentence of a paragraph about the late-in-life success of a writer I had never heard of. I'm not so sure about either the steel in my life or the true artist but, by the early 1990s, when prose-poems began to fall like rain from heaven, I could look back at the first five decades of my life, at a succession of victories and defeats, wins and losses, joys and sorrows, tragedies and failures going as far back as my first memories in the late 1940s. It was from this series of heights and depths that I emerged in the last years of my middle-age and during an early retirement from a 50 year student-and-paid-employment life, 1949 to 1999. I emerged as a writer and author, poet and publisher, editor and researcher, reader and scholar, online blogger and journalist and retired by degrees from my life as a teacher and tutor, lecturer and adult educator among a host of FT and PT jobs that had filled my life from the middle of the 20th century. During the years 1999 to 2005 I also freed myself from PT and casual-work, as well as most community work in which I had been enmeshed for decades.

I was finally free at last, and I experienced much more of that creative surge which had begun in the last years of my working life. I published several books in cyberspace, as well as 100s of essays and prose-poems. I established myself as a writer, by sensible and insensible degrees, if not a writer of consequence and a winner of literary prizes. This type of literary success is emblematic of my career. Whatever gifts I possessed they were largely, virtually, unsung, and mysterious to me, although not all of the time. Sometimes I achieved a measure of popularity that was very gratifying and this online popularity built-up my self-image, as my first popularity as a baseball player in the Burlington pee-wee league did in 1955.

As I write these words in my 70s I am familiar with: (i) the intoxications of popularity & celebrity at a grass-roots and local community level, as well as (ii) popularity in cyberspace. The intoxications in either real space or cyberspace have never been those of the big players and those celebrities that fill our electronic media day after day and week after week. I am a very minor player in that world of fame and renown, and I am happy to keep my profile relatively low as befits my social and psychological needs for solitude and a literary life.

This late arrival, in the last decade of my middle-age, of a literary surge gave me, not so much the confidence, as the pleasure, to complete many literary pieces. I did not think it likely, though, that they would allow me to make any claims on posterity. This was especially true due to the fact that all this writing and publishing began to occur at a time when 1000s of other writers were also coming onto the radar of a burgeoning internet world. In the world of books, there are only two bets: the here-and-now and the yet-to-come. I had always been struggling with the former but, thanks to the world-wide-web I was getting victories in both camps. My literary afterlife is a complete mystery, although it has begun to show signs of becoming finally blessed with understanding, admiration and respect at least in some corners of the internet. My success is now measured, as I say above, in nanoseconds across the vast landscape that is cyberspace among millions of readers. The concept of a literary afterlife, for those who find this a somewhat obscure term, is the life writing assumes after it gets written.

Once my three children had left home by the early years of the 21st century, and all my FT and PT jobs as well as much of the volunteer work in community life no longer gobbled-up the hours of a week, I was able to settle into a literary life as much as I ever would be able to do without the demands of teaching, the family, and community, as I say, to eat away the hours. The amount of time daily in this literary life was, though, modest. In the first 15 years after 2000 I was spending 12 hours in bed a day due to the medications for my bipolar disorder and so, whatever literary life I was able to find, it was inevitably found in only 6 to 8 hours a day. Typically, to my family and friends, I played down my writing life, rarely talked about it, pretended in a way that it was a hobby, part of my preference for solitude. I did not mention to others what a wonderful literary pleasure and success I was now achieving or at least feeling, nor did I emphasize that I was enjoying the belated start of the reinvention of my professional life from teacher and tutor to poet & publisher.

Part 5:

I had been a student and teacher for more than half a century when I retired at the age of 55 in 1999. Human history has been the product of meticulous research by the anthropologist’s study of cultures, the archeologist’s study of artifacts, and the historian’s study of archival documents. These investigations have all lead to various theories of causality inferred by this data. In truth, though, history can only be accurately understood by the scholar with a perspective into the essentially spiritual nature of reality. Of course, one can know a great deal about history in a scholarly fashion, but the ultimate meaning of it all requires the work of theologians and philosophers. In short, the study of human civilization becomes a subject as fit for theologians and philosophers as it is for scholars in any other field of study: “Rejecting the reigning dogmas of materialism, Bahá’u’lláh asserts an opposing interpretation of the historical process. Humanity, the arrowhead of the evolution of consciousness, passes through stages analogous to the period of infancy, childhood, and adolescence in the lives of its individual members” (Bahá’í International Community 5).

From this perspective the analysis of human history derived from traditional materialistic models might be considered fundamentally inaccurate: instead of perceiving the story of humankind (and the progress of civilization in the last century in particular) as a catalogue of war, tyranny, and catastrophe, the Bahá’í views the last hundred years as a “century of light” and history overall as a spiritual or religious dynamic. Indeed, history becomes an evolutionary, systematic, logical, and divinely guided pathway towards an age of maturation and the fruition of human capacity.

Likewise, this century just passed and this precise moment in which we find ourselves are, according to this view, properly viewed not as the end of time (in any common sense of the term), but as the true beginning of human history. This age is, indeed, the confluence of all previous planetary and social change, a period of transformation inherent in earth’s creation from its inception in the Divine Will of the Creator and as urged along systematically by His divinely empowered educators, the Manifestations of God: “The journey has brought us to the threshold of our long-awaited coming of age as a unified human race. The wars, exploitation, and prejudice that have marked immature stages in the process should not be a cause of despair but a stimulus to assuming the responsibilities of collective maturity”. “Viewed through Bahá’u’lláh’s eyes, the history of tribes and clans, city states and nations, peoples and races, has effectively reached its conclusion. What we are witnessing is the beginning of the history of humankind, the history of a human race conscious of its own oneness” (Bahá’í International Community 21). It is this view which has underpinned and inspired my work since the 1960s.

Part 5.1:

The emergence of a world community, the consciousness of world citizenship, the founding of a world civilization and culture—all of which must synchronize with the initial stages in the unfoldment of the Golden Age of the Bahá’í Era—should, by their very nature, be regarded, as far as this planetary life is concerned, as the furthermost limits in the organization of human society, though man, as an individual, will, nay must indeed as a result of such a consummation, continue indefinitely to progress and develop. (World Order of Bahá’u’lláh 163) In short, all future planetary social progress will be but a refinement of the system devised by Bahá’u’lláh. Consequently, though this planet will doubtless reach an end point in its existence (as all composite bodies must), the most important part of human history lies in the future, not in the past. However finished the fundamental organization of our global society may become during the Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’u’lláh’s design for a global community is capable of infinite refinement. The nucleus and pattern of this system is something I have been working for and within since at least 1965 when I was the vice-chairman of the local spiritual assembly of the Bahá'ís of Windsor Ontario. In the last 16 years I have been a member of the Bahá'í Group of George Town Tasmania, and have had several roles on its elected body.

The first stage of this evolutionary process in our time has been underway for at least a century, but it is not yet complete—the process of putting in place the ingredients of a global federal government.‘Abdu’l-Bahá seems to imply that what will signal the firm establishment of this “Lesser Peace” will be the formation of a pact setting up this system, an agreement in which national governments will voluntarily form a binding “all-embracing” (Secret 64) accord that will, among other things, (1) establish territorial boundaries, (2) devise principles of international relations, (3) establish international agreements and obligations, and (4) secure arms limitations.

The next step in this first stage is the setting up of a world federal government, something Shoghi Effendi in The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh discusses in great detail, even suggesting what the fundamental structure of such a federal system might be. This “world Super-State”, at least “as far as we can visualize it”, will consist of an “International Executive,” a “World Parliament,” and a “Supreme Tribunal”. Elsewhere Shoghi Effendi employs slightly different terms to designate similar components: a “world legislature,” an “international Force,” and a “world tribunal”. Notice that he includes in this paradigm an “international Force”, not as a fourth component of the government, but as a multinational force employed to safeguard the decisions of “this world legislature.” He also uses other appellations for these same components: the “Supreme Tribunal” is sometimes alluded to as the “International Tribunal”, and elsewhere as the “Universal Court of Arbitration” (Bahá’í Administration 47). This will not come about as the direct result of the Bahá’í Faith, nor will these components of the initial federal system even be directly associated with the Bahá’í teachings: The “Lesser Peace will come about through the political efforts of the states and nations of the world, and independently of any direct Bahá’í plan or effort.....” (qtd. in Universal House of Justice, Messages 422.17).

Part 5.2:

While the future in large part is written, from a Bahá'í perspective, the precise pathway to, and time frame for, the attainment of world peace and federal government, these lofty and glorious victories, are in the hands of humanity and, even more particularly, in the hands of individual Bahá’ís & the Bahá’í community as a whole. For the inevitability of this destiny does not obviate our individual free will, our personal obligation to participate in this process. Thus, while the future of humankind on this planet is ultimately secure, our own individual future has not been yet been written, even if it is foreknown by an omniscient Creator. As individuals we are entirely free to falter and fail. What is more, if the Bahá’í community as a whole stands aside and waits for the secular events of the Lesser Peace to come before it bothers to become actively involved in assisting the peace of humankind, it is neglecting both individual & collective spiritual development and responsibility and even retarding the pace at which these events will occur, an obligation for which Bahá’ís and the Bahá’í community bear full responsibility. Indeed, it is in this regard that the Universal House of Justice has written: "This does not mean, however, that the Bahá’ís are standing aside and waiting for the Lesser Peace to come before they do something about the peace of mankind. Indeed, by promoting the principles of the Faith, which are indispensable to the maintenance of peace, & by fashioning the instruments of the Bahá’í Administrative Order, which we are told by the beloved Guardian is the pattern for future society, the Bahá’ís are constantly engaged in laying the groundwork for a permanent peace, the Most Great Peace being their ultimate goal. (Messages 422.3) My adult life from 1965 to 2015 I have been promoting the principles of the Faith, and it has often been an exhausting one.

Since the first poetic writings in the 1940s of the two major North American poets associated with the emergence of a Bahá'í consciousness in world literature, Robert Hayden and Roger White, the number of local spiritual assemblies had grown from several hundred to many thousand. It is not my intention to expatiate on the brilliant conception underlying the Bahá'í administrative Order, itself the nucleus and pattern of a future world Order, nor is it my intention to attempt even a brief description of Bahá'í administratrion, but I would like to include below one of White's poems that conveys the experience that many hundreds of thousands of Bahá'ís have had serving on local administrative units or LSAs. The Bahá'í system of decision-making is far removed from the western parliamentary process and its debate oriented lance-and-parry thrust. The Bahá'í administrative system is based on consultation in small groups and, although apparently simple in design, it is a very demanding process for those called upon to serve. Here is the poem:

NINE ASCENDING

Nine of us, equipollent,
precariously balanced
in ragged semicircle
our eyes glazed by the impasse
we have reached
far from the decision
distantly drawing us forward.

Tension leaves us dry-mouthed,
chokes off the fatal sundering words
any one of us might speak
that will plunge us into the chasm.
This is a good terror.

With delicate calm
the Book is passed
hand to hand,
its words reweave
the disciplining cord
that binds us to our purpose.
Again the humbling summit is assaulted;
we make our verticle ascent
past fault and fissure.

Sing in gratitude
for the fragile resolution
that leads us in ginger circumspection
from the miasmal ooze
from which we so painfully inch
our consequential necessary way.

I have always been moved, in the more than 20 years since I first read this poem, by White's use of the term 'good terror.' The reason I was moved by these words is that I found they were so apt. They describe how I often felt in the fifty years since I began serving on LSAs, and in registered groups. This same 'terror' is often part of the experience men and women have in secular organizations as well. We are all in it together now as the world forges the instruments for its salvation in the centuries to come.

Part 5.3:

When we become a slave to the “cult” of individualism as articulated and practiced in contemporary society, we lose the plot, so to speak. No aspect of contemporary civilization is more directly challenged by Bahá’u’lláh’s conception of the future than is the prevailing cult of individualism, which has spread to most parts of the world. Nurtured by such cultural forces as political ideology, academic elitism, and a consumer economy, the “pursuit of happiness” has given rise to an aggressive and almost boundless sense of personal entitlement. The moral consequences have been corrosive for the individual and society alike—& devastating in terms of disease, drug addiction and other all-too-familiar blights of century’s end. (Baha’i International Community 17). Simply glancing at the Bahá’í scriptures, saying our prayers, and going to Feasts now and then will hardly safeguard us and our children from the infections nature of a materialistic orientation to reality which acts subliminally upon our hearts and minds.

The future to which the Bahá'í visions alludes and for which we wait with eager anticipation is not some “distant, almost unattainable ideal to be addressed only after a host of political conflicts have been somehow resolved, material needs somehow satisfied, & injustices somehow corrected. The opposite, Bahá’u’lláh asserts, is the case”, writes John Hatcher in one of his many pieces of analysis and commentary. Even the strictest materialist or empiricist will readily acknowledge that human history has inevitably been written not by great masses of well-trained armies, but by small groups of individuals with a unified vision and boundless energy whose imaginations are enkindled & whose hearts are vibrant because of a vision they share. Through our shortcomings, failures to sacrifice and reluctance to concentrate our efforts in spreading the Cause, we can retard the realization of that ideal. And what would that mean? It shall mean that we will be held responsible before God, that the race will remain longer in its state of waywardness, that wars would not be so soon averted, that human suffering will last longer.(Qtd. in Compilation of Compilations). Of course, what Hatcher writes of here and what I quote from his voluminous essays and books, is a complex entity. In the vast pagaentry and panoply of history's ebb and flow armies and individuals of significance have played more than a little part. A separate book would be required to deal with a Bahá'í conception of history.

Part 6:

In saying all of the above, and in believing in the future of the planet and its people, I am not bling to the sense of crisis which has been with humanity for at least the last century. Catastrophe has surrounded us perpetually, especially in recent decades: from the Queensland floods, Christchurch earthquake, global warming, and Global Financial Crisis to social conflicts, psychological breaking points, relationship failures, and crises of understanding. As a consequence of the pervasiveness of catastrophe, its representation saturates our everyday awareness. On a daily basis we encounter stories of people impacted by and coping with natural, economic, ecological, and emotional disasters of all kinds.

But what is the relationship between culture, catastrophe, and creativity? Can catastrophe be an impetus for the creative transformation of societies and individuals? Conversely, how can culture moderate, transform, and re-imagine catastrophe? And in the final analysis, how should we conceive of catastrophe; does catastrophe have a bad name? These questions and others have guided us in editing the “catastrophe” issue of M/C Journal of Media and Culture(2013).

The word catastrophe has been associated with extreme disaster only since the 1700s. In an earlier etymological sense, catastrophe simply connoted “a reversal of what is expected” or, in Western literary history, a defining turn in a drama (Harper). Catastrophe derives from the Greek katastrophe for “an overturning; a sudden end.” As this issue of the journal from which I am quoting here clearly demonstrates, whilst catastrophes vary in scale, context, and meaning, their outcomes are life-changing inversions of the interpersonal, social, or environmental norm.

In The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization, political scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon echoes this definition and argues that catastrophe “can be a source of immense creativity—a shock that opens up political, social, and psychological space for fresh ideas, actions, institutions, and technologies that weren't possible before”. According to Homer-Dixon and on a hopeful note, “in any complex adaptive system, breakdown, if limited, can be a key part of that system's long-term resilience and renewal”. As a collection, the articles re-envision catastrophe as a pathway for creative interventions, artistic responses, community solidarities, social innovations, individual modes of survival and resilience, and environmental justices. In thinking through the relationship between catastrophe and culture, the authors challenge existing discourses and ways of knowing trauma, and offer fresh interpretations and hope. Catastrophe leads to metanoia: a change of perception after a significant crisis. The editors appreciate that there are no hierarchies between interpretations of catastrophe. Instead, the articles represent a dialogue between diverse experiences of pain, disaster, and abuse, as well as different theories about the nature of catastrophe—from the catastrophic loss of millions through genocide to the impact of trauma on an individual’s body and psyche. I leave it to readers to survey these papers to the extent they are interested.

Part 7:

There are many philosophers and philosophies, psychologies and psychologists, sociologies and sociologists, thinkers and analysts of the individual and society whose ideas can provide a window into one's autobiographical account. From time to time, I utilize some thinker and integrate some of what they have to say into my life-narrative. In this work, now numbering several thousand pages, I utilize the ideas of writers whose ideas have shaped my own thinking. In the next few paragraphs I will take Julia Kristeva(1941-), a Bulgarian-French philosopher, literary critic, psychoanalyst, sociologist, feminist, and, most recently, novelist, who has lived in France since the mid-1960s. She is now a Professor at the University Paris. Kristeva became influential in international critical analysis, cultural theory and feminism after publishing her first book Semeiotikè in 1969.

I did not come to know of Kristeva and her ideas for another 25 years when I was teaching sociological theory and literary theory at a polytechnic in Western Australia. In 1969 she was far out on the periphery of my universe, like some star in a distant galaxy. Her sizable body of work includes books and essays which address intertextuality, the semiotic, and abjection(a state of being cast-off), in the fields of linguistics, literary theory and criticism, psychoanalysis, biography and autobiography, political and cultural analysis, art and art history. Together with Roland Barthes, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Jacques Lacan, and Louis Althusser, she stands as one of the foremost structuralists, in that time when structuralism took a major place in humanities. Her works also have an important place in post-structuralist thought. I don't want to burden readers with the names of many people and fields of knowledge about which I know that most readers, like most of the students I have taught, know little to nothing. I do not aim to be a burden on my readers. I leave it to readers to investigate for themselves, if they so desire, or just pass on if that is their desire.

I'll give readers a brief overview of structuralist and post-structuralist thought to help them appreciate where Kristeva is/was coming from back in those years, from the 1960s to the 1980s. The fields are filled with complex terms and difficult language for the unitiatied, for those with no exposure to the fields of study which are her areas of expertise. I found this out from teaching these concepts; they are very difficult for the average student to grasp. Structuralism is a theoretical paradigm in sociology, anthropology, linguistics and semiotics which states that elements of human culture must be understood in terms of their relationship to a larger, overarching system or structure. Structuralism is the belief that phenomena of human life are not intelligible except through their interrelations. Structuralism is an intellectual movement which developed in Europe from the early to mid-20th century, and became strong in the 1960s. It argued that human culture may be understood by means of a structure—modeled on language, that is, structural linguistics which I first came across in my reading in 1974. This view of culture differs from the concrete reality of culture, & from many abstract ideas about culture. This is the briefest of summaries. I encourage readers with the interest to get a grasp of Kristeva's ideas and some of the terms I am using here.

Post-structuralism emerged in the 1960s as a response to structuralism. Post-structuralism(PS) rejects the idea of a literary text having a single purpose, a single meaning, or one singular existence. In contrast, PS sees every individual reader as the creator of their own individual purpose, meaning, and existence for a given text. A PS critic must be able to use a variety of perspectives to create a multifaceted interpretation of a text, even if these interpretations conflict with one another. In a PS approach to textual analysis, the reader replaces the author as the primary subject of inquiry. This displacement is often referred to as the "destabilizing" or "decentering" of the author, though it has its greatest effect on the text itself.

Kristeva and her ideas did not come onto my radar until the 1990s and 2000s when I was investigating some of the theoretical and contextual frameworks for the study and the writing of my own autobiography. I had also come across her ideas in the 1990s in the fields of sociology and literary theory, feminism and philosophy. After some two decades of a somewhat superficial, minimal, contact with her ideas, I write what follows from Kristeva's corpus of ideas, ideas of relevance to my autobiographical account.

Part 7.1:

Kristeva favors a view of the life-narrative of a person as something always "in process" or "on trial". For me, my autobiography has a distinctly PS turn. Rather than arriving at a fixed identity as one advances into adulthood, a person's life is permanently "in process". She believes that it is harmful to posit collective identity above individual identity. A person's collective identity, says Kristeva, carries with it the political assertion of sexual, ethnic, and religious identities. This is a danger and it is this that lies at the basis of totalitarianism. This area is an important domain of analysis for me since my individual identity is closely interwoven with my collective identity as: a Bahá'í, a Canadian-Australian hybrid, a husband-father-man.

Kristeva's concept of intertextuality is also one that I also found useful in applying it to my reading and literary life, both of which were and are highly significant areas of my life experience. In applying intertextuality to literature, says Roland Barthes, Kristeva emphasizes that the meaning of a text does not reside in the text. The meaning is produced by the reader in relation not only to the text in question, but also the complex network of texts invoked in the reading process. I found this a highly liberating view since it placed me in the centre of the interpretative universe.

The World-Wide Web is, for me, a unique realm of reciprocal intertextuality. No particular text claims centrality, but the Web text produces for me an image, an experience, of a community. That community is: (i) the group of people who write and read the text using specific discursive strategies, and (ii) the international Bahá'í community. For a detailed discussion of this concept see: Ananda Mitra(1999): "Characteristics of the WWW Text: Tracing Discursive Strategies". Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication V.5., N.1. This domain of analysis is rich in potential meaning and I leave it to readers with the interest to follow-up and familiarize themselves with the relevant literature from Kristeva and others.

Part 7.2:

Kristeva also argues in her contribution to gender studies that the individual excludes, casts-off, or abjects, their mother as a means of forming an identity. This is similar to the way in which societies are constructed. In my late teens and early twenties I went through a process of excluding or casting-off, my mother. What Kristeva says here has important implications for the articulation of my life. Looking back on those late teens and early twenties, I can see the relevance of Kristeva's notion of identity and my identity being in a state of crisis. I made a break from the world of my mother is a series of steps from childhood to adulthood. Looking back to 1966-1967 I see my going to teachers' college in another city, and then going to Baffin Island as a break from the world of my mother. I found that decision very difficult to make as I look back at the summer of 1966 when I made that break and I left my mother's flat on the 3rd of September and drove to Windsor to attend the teachers' college there, study to be a teacher and then move to Baffin Island in 1967. My mother wanted me to stay with her and not go off to another city.

I have trouble seeing all my life as being in a state of crisis, but there were occasions, periods, in which Kristeva's notion of the crisis of identity is useful in helping me come to grips with, helping me understand, my experience. The positive side of this crisis of identity is that one's identity is open to change, open to a creative response to life, open to evolution and eternal renewal. In this context identity involves overcoming life's limitations and its shortcomings, its problems and its traumas, and finding new creativities. But this requires an experience of, a restoration of, confidence. It also requires an understanding of identity as multiple, diverse and complex, not something fixed and stagnant.

The Bahá'í identity is one in which the individual is kaleidoscopic. He or she comes from any one of some two hundred++ nations and speaks, at last count, any one of hundreds of languages. The Bahá'í Faith is united in its aspiration to diversity not uniformity; in spite of Bahá'í dogmatics, the Bahá'í notions of humanity are plural, complex and include just about everyone in its community. Bahá'í theology is not stagnant but evolving. My emotions, my desires, my sensations, my interpretations are all part of a wealth of inner life transmitted to me by this latest of the Abrahamic religions, as well as the social sciences and the humanities which have helped, and are helping, me understand this inner life in more detail.

There is much more in Kristeva's writings that are relevant here but I will conclude with her discussion of a corpus mysticum which is the basis of a morality that includes all of humanity. Kristeva borrows this notion from Immanuel Kant and his Critique of Practical Reason. To establish this corpus mysticum, says Kristeva, we need to go deeper into creative experience, by developing writing and developing actual encounters. This is partly what I'm trying to do here. There is much in Kristeva and I leave it to readers to see the relevance of her ideas to the articulation of a life. Kristeva is but one of many on whom I draw in this autobiographical work.

Part 8:

In a review in the London Review of Books(Vol. 35 No. 23, 5 December 2013) by Julian Barnes is his analysis of a painting by Rembrandt. Barnes is reviewing the following two books: (i) Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud by Martin Gayford( Thames and Hudson, 250 pages, 2012), and (ii) Breakfast with Lucian: A Portrait of the Artist by Geordie Greig(Cape, 260 pages, 2013). Barnes is analysing Rembrandt’s Artist in His Studio(c.1629). This painting, says Barnes, is a small picture with a blazing message. The viewpoint is that of one seated on the bare floor in the corner of an attic studio with crumbling plaster walls. On the right, in shadow, is the doorway. In the centre, with its back to us, is an enormous easel with a picture propped on it. On the left, barely half the height of the easel, stands the painter, brush and mahlstick in hand, dressed in his painting robe and hat. He is in shadow, but we can roughly make out his moon face as he stares at his picture. The light source, out of shot, is to the left of him and above. It falls almost entirely on the floorboards, turning them corn-coloured, and also on the left-hand edge of the painting on the easel, giving it a glittering vertical line. But because we can’t see where the light is coming from, the image switches round in our head: it is as if the painting is blazing out over the floor (but not onto the manikin-painter). So we are to understand: it is the art which illuminates, which gives the artist both his being and his significance, rather than the other way round."

Lucian Freud, says Barnes, made the same point once with a brilliant aside. Any words which might come out of Freud's mouth concerning his art, Freud once remarked, are about as relevant to that art as the noise a tennis player produces when playing a shot. He wrote one article for Encounter at the very start of his career in 1954, and at the very end added a few sentences to it for Tatler in 2004. (His view of art had not changed in the fifty-year interval.) Otherwise he kept textual silence. He issued no manifestos and gave no press interviews until his final decade. All this through a period when artists took over the colour supplements, and the easel painter seemed vieux jeu compared to the collager, silk-screener, installer, conceptualist, video-maker, performer, neon-signer and stone-arranger. There was much art babble, and newcomers were expected to provide credos of fluent obscurity. Flaubert once said: ‘The more words there are on a gallery wall next to a picture, the worse the picture.’

Part 8.1:

Flaubert also said, in reply to a journalistic inquiry about his life, ‘I have no biography.’ The art is everything; its creator nothing. Freud, who used to read aloud to his girlfriends from Flaubert’s letters, and portrayed the writer Francis Wyndham with a battered but recognisable copy of the first volume of the Belknap edition in his fist, would have agreed. But having ‘no biography’ is impossible: the nearest you can get is to have no published biography in your own lifetime. Freud, more than any other artist of his stature, came as close to that as possible. In the 1980s, an unauthorised biographer started delving, only to find heavies at his door, advising him to desist. A decade later, Freud authorised a biography and co-operated on it, but when he read the typescript and realised what biography entailed, he paid the writer off. He lived furtively, moving between addresses, never filling in a form (and hence never voting), rarely giving out his telephone number. Those close to him knew that silence and secrecy were the price of knowing him.

Julian Patrick Barnes (born 19 January 1946) is an English writer. Barnes won the Man Booker Prize for his book The Sense of an Ending (2011), and three of his earlier books had been shortlisted for the Booker Prize: Flaubert's Parrot (1984), England, England (1998), and Arthur & George (2005). He has also written crime fiction under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh. In addition to novels, Barnes has published collections of essays and short stories. In 2004 he became a Commandeur of L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. His honours also include the Somerset Maugham Award and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. I draw on Barnes's review of the above two books about Lucian Freud because what he writes throws an indirect, a tangential, light on my autobiographical project.

In the not-too-distant future my life will end. I am now 70 and, in the present state of medical science and life expectancy, it is possible, if not highly likely, that I will live after 2044. In that year I will be 100! What I have written will certainly be all there is in the long term, the longue duree as the Annales School of Historians refer to history's long story. I have made my contribution in the short term: 50 years in classrooms as a student and teacher(1949 to 2003); 50 years of FT and PT jobs; I have been a son, a parent and several dozen other roles. I have made my contribution, in the short term and however modest and minuscule it has been, to an ever-advancing civilization. I have developed several virtues and they, too and in their own way, contributed to society. This autobiography provides an outline of my contribution. But in the decades and centuries after I pass away, my writing is everything and I am nothing. As Barnes writes, having no biography is impossible unless no one ever writes one about my life.

"In one version of the philosophy of the self," writes Barnes, "we all operate at some point on a line between the twin poles of episodicism and narrativism." Barnes continues: "The distinction is existential, not moral. Episodicists feel and see little connection between the different parts of their life, have a more fragmentary sense of self, and tend not to believe in the concept of free will. Narrativists feel and see constant connectivity, an enduring self, and acknowledge free will as the instrument which forges their self and their connectedness. Narrativists feel responsibility for their actions and guilt over their failures; episodicists think that one thing happens, and then another thing happens. Freud in his personal life was as pure an example of an episodicist as you are likely to get. He always acted on impulse; he describes himself as ‘egotistical … but … not in the least introspective’.

Asked if he felt guilt about always being an absentee father to his large number of children, he replied, ‘None at all.’ When Freud’s son Ali, who was angered by his father’s massive absence, later apologised in case his own behaviour had caused his father anxiety, Freud replied: ‘That’s nice of you to say, but it doesn’t work like that. There is no such thing as free will – people just have to do what they have to do.’ He was a reader of Nietzsche, and he viewed that philosopher as one who thought us all ‘pieces of fate’. His episodicism applied to such varied matters as the weather (his favourite being Irish, which comes in many unpredictable forms each day) and grief (‘I hate mourning & all that kind of thing-I’ve never done it’). He thought the idea of an afterlife ‘utterly ghastly,’ perhaps because such a contrivance would prove narrativism. Not surprisingly, narrativists tend to find episodicists selfish and irresponsible; while episodicists tend to find narrativists boring and bourgeois. Happily (or confusingly), in most of us these tendencies overlap." I could make many comparisons and contrasts between what Barnes writes about Freud and what I could write about my own life, but I will leave it to readers. Readers have several million words about my life and readers with the interest can compare and contrast my life and the life of others ad infinitum.

We all interpret to survive, for although the world is our text, it is not entirely an open book. Some of our world's signs are the motive behind our anxious scrutiny and scrivening. We want to believe that everything is significant, that everything is in order, and therefore interpretable. But, since the meaning of things is not always manifest, we assume that meaning is latent or concealed. As interpreters of our lives our first move is to discover that what has happened to us and our society is comprehensible. Often what has happened we often take for granted that it is in fact random, incoherent, and full of gaps. Our second move is to uncover connections, try to get behind what appears to be a secret narrative, even a type of hermeneutic plot. The Genesis of Secrecy, to use the title of Frank Kermode's 1979 book, is interpretation. (The book originated as the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard in 1977-78.)

Frank Kermode's attitude toward interpretation is like St. Paul's toward the Law. Without the Law, there would be no sin. "Without interpretation, there would be no mystery." We are all interpreters, and therefore sinners, but the interpreters of words are second-story men, interpreters of interpretations. The first canonical Christian interpreter was St. Mark, and in the Bahá'í Faith it was Abdul-Baha. Mr. Kermode shows how narrative itself begins as interpretation; narrative begets new narrative as commentary on itself. This narrative of my life, my religion and my society certainly begins in interpretation. All narratives, like this narrative that is my autobiography, are full of interpretive fictions; all of them, whether history or fiction, analysis or commentary, must censor, select, fill in gaps, forge connections, and interpret. Kermode seems to argue, and I am happy to apply his views on interpretation to my autobiography, that no history or biography can be believed, but must be regarded as a kind of novel. Any narrative is necessarily incomplete, and the details left out may for some readers be the important ones. What is taken for granted may become the crucial question. Such is the justification for the title of his book.

Part 9:

Life after Marriage, one of A. Alvarez's books, follows much the same pattern as his best-selling The Savage God: A Study of Suicide. Both books have: a personal bit, some friends, some literary figures. This formula for the first book was worthy of repetition, as far as Alvarez was concerned. The principal literary figure in the first book was Sylvia Plath, a writer on whose work, & death, Alvarez became an authority. It was a very readable book and did much to awaken interest in Plath: but it also heralded the author’s addiction to plangent autobiography. Plangent autobiography is a type of autobiography that has an expressive and especially plaintive quality. My work is, it seems to me at most, a quasi-plangent autobiography, but it is more clinical and medical, antiseptic and analytical than plangent. I occasionally sing a sad song, but sadness is not, it seems to me, the dominant note. There is little, if any, bitterness and heartbreak.There is: melancholy, sadness, sorrow, a despairing note from time to time, periodic grief & a strong degree of preoccupation. But these notes are part of a general symphony with many other notes that derive from a certain pensive, contemplative, reflective, stance vis-a-vis my 70 years of living.There is, I like to think, some detachment amidst whatever weariness & woe there is in my account.

Over the years of his critical career Alvarez has expressed the belief that, in the 20th century, true art is produced by those on the edge of sanity, or under severe pressure. By airing his own abortive suicide attempt in his book The Savage God, he seemed to be making an effort to join that club. His interest in the writings of the people concerned became of secondary importance. He turned sociologist, historian, psychologist and philosopher almost overnight, and moved a long way from his early, and serious, critical work. Like me, Alvarez wrote of his intention to commit suicide. ‘It was the one constant focus of my life, making everything else irrelevant, a diversion.’ That was true for me only for short periods of time beginning in the autumn of 1963, and raising its head from time to time until 1980 and then every night just as my head hit the pillow. My story has parallels with the story of Alvarez, but it also has very large differences.

Part 9.1:

Alvarez at first writes: ‘My wife was not to blame ... I was using her as an excuse for troubles that had their roots deep in the past.’ Later in life, it seems, that his wife, or at any rate his marriage, was to blame. For the purposes of the book, Life after Marriage: Scenes from Divorce, his misery is laid, entirely & uncompromisingly, at the door of his unhappy marriage. It is absolutely inconceivable that anyone reading Alvarez could think that he considered his relationship with his wife irrelevant, still less a diversion. It is not just difficult to reconcile the two accounts of his state of mind, and the reasons for it: it is impossible. Which account, if either, should we credit? It seems to me that he is having his cake and eating it, and that he is ‘using her’ again. Where now are the ‘roots deep in the past’? Have they perhaps been grafted to bear a new strange fruit? Confessional writing has long enjoyed a market, and in recent times more than ever. There is an appealing quality to its apparent candour: the reader feels confident of the courage and honesty that must be inherent in these revelations. In my experience, such confidence is usually quite ill-placed. People find it difficult to tell their psychiatrists the truth, or even themselves, let alone the public.

My book is not really confessional in the sense that the book of Alvarez is. I have had difficulties in both my marriages, but so do millions of other couples. My focus in my book about my BPD is on bipolar disorder, not on my relationships with my partners, my employers, my friends, my parents, my religion or, indeed, my society. At best all of these social-relationship domains serve as tangents, as contexts, for the ups-&-downs of the emotional life that went with my disorder. My confession is a clinical, a psychiatric, a medical, one.

1. ENVY AND LUST:

1.1 LOTS OF WORK STILL TO DO

You think it horrible that lust and rage
Should dance attendance upon my old age;
They were not such a plague when I was young:
What else have I to spur me into song?
-W.B. Yeats in On Poetry and Poets, T.S. Eliot, Faber and Faber, London, 1947, p.257.

Can it be that I do not envy any more?
No desire to be young or handsome?
No desire to receive some recognition
by being elected or appointed?
Perhaps a wishing that I might have
become something more: purer?
more independent? more courageous?
Horace said those who envy grow thin.
If this is so, perhaps that's why I'm
getting chubby---not bloody likely!
Found: a sign for the absence of
the least trace of envy--chubby
old men and women. No, that can't be.

I've been envying all my life.
There was always someone better
at something than me. Now, well,
I just don't care. Is this the root
of my spiritual gainer: insouciance?
The contextual nuances for envy
are multitudinous and I must confess
that occasionally, even now,
admiration finds envy's trace element
like a cold wind from the Arctic blowing
faintly, so faintly across my face.
I nearly miss it; it goes so fast,
but it stick's for an instant in my liver,
or is it my kidney, unbeknownst.

Envy's microscopic trace, extracted,
purple? black? colourless? only the
psychoanalytic-geologist would know for sure.

There's been a thinning going on
underneath my nose leaving my
wanting faculty highly pruned, sorted.
What, pray, has slaked my envy?
Has that primary envy of my mother's
breast just run out of gas?
This theological problem, abating,
perhaps is taking a new form: pride.

Good God, no! Desire's quiet new receptacle.
Erudition, those who can amuse,
who have money to travel,
those who have radiant acquiescence,
courage--the list seems endless,
quieter but endless.
Lots of work still to do.

Ron Price
28 November 1995

1.2 SOME COMMENTARY

My wife has helped me in achieving whatever 'spiritual tranquillity' I have achieved in a marriage relationship, but this was achieved only when I learned to enjoy her soul and not lust after her body, a process too long to describe here. The Russian writer Pushkin also put his experience with sex this way. I have written a great deal on sex and marriage, love and lust in many places in my now highly variegated autobiography. I would like to add one or two things here as I am about to become 71 two months from now. My relationship with my wife is often a complex one since she is often unhappy with my lifestyle, my behaviour, indeed, much about me and she tends to call a spade a spade. My mother, in the last years before my father's death, was clearly unhappy with many aspects of my father's life, especially his bad temper. I have grown closer to my father in this area because my wife has problems with my temper which I tend to blame on my bipolar disorder. Let me just say in summary here and, not wanting to write an essay on the subject at this stage, I have to work at keeping the relationship harmonic.

1.3 The plethora of women's and men's magazines now on the market, life-style magazines like Mademoiselle, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Marie Claire, Women's Weekly, inter alia which deal with relationships, marriage, sex and love have not been of much value to me for I have never been much of a reader of this dense forest of reading material. Nor have some of the other dense forests of magazines and literature: cars, fishing, food, domestic, fashion and on-and-on contributed much to my life, spiritual or material. This is not to say, of course, that I have not been affected by this plethora of an often engrossing trivia, a quotidian reality which bathes the senses of many an everyday man with its enticing attractions.

1.4 The car, for example, which Roland Barthes sees as the equivalent in our time of the Gothic cathedrals, with their magical spirit and utility, has given me much pleasure and practical value for 70 years, especially after I first got my license at the beginning of my pioneering life in 1962.(Barthes, Mythologies, 1967, p.99) According to Jeremy Iggers the advent in 1963 of Julia Child's television show The French Chef began a revolution in the middle class's approach to cooking and to food in itself(Jeremy Iggers, The Garden of Eating: Food, Sex, and the Hunger for Meaning, Basic Books, 1996, p.29). Television was the perfect medium for the dissemination of bourgeois culture, and the Baby Boomers, raised on TV, were right there absorbing Julia's dictates about food. MacClancy claims: "In the ways in which the Boomers' parents strove to acquire knowledge of painting or classical music, the Boomers have made cooking the art, the social currency." Cooking shows and cars still have centre stage in the advertising world. And I must acknowledge a sort of background music of both these categories of consumer culture in my life even if I take little interest in cooking or in cars.(Jeremy MacClancy,Consuming Culture, Holt, NY,1992, p.210)

1.5 The consumption of a food culture by the middle-aged and now old age middle classes seems to have displaced sex and the consumption of sexuality. As my generation avidly went for sex and discussed its sexual exploits and liberation during the sixties, so we now avidly discuss the meals we've cooked and the restaurants we've eaten in. Among educated Boomers, cookery books have attained the status of art object or sex manual or both. Of course, there have been cookery books since ancient times, but they were specialized for an elite audience of master cooks. The advent of cookery books for the common man or woman in the nineteenth century, however, marks the beginning of the commodification of such objects. I don't want to go into this topic to any greater extent. Readers are advised to take a look at: Cher Holt-Fortin, "A Loaf of Bread, a Jug of Wine, & Thou Beside Me in the Kitchen," Americana: The Journal of American Popular Culture (1900-present), Fall 2002, Volume 1, Issue 2 for an excellent contextualization of food for my generation even if my experience of much of it is atypical.

1.6 Perhaps this would be a good place in this memoir to offer the following summary found in Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. A Dialogue on Love. Boston: Beacon Press, 2000. I do not have to deal with the complex issues which Sedgwick does; I have my own battles. Sedgewick proves not so much a model for me, but a useful contrast with her battles. I find that drawing on the problems and experiences of others a helpful way to write my autobiography.

As a founder of the academic discipline of "queer studies," Sedgwick's bailiwick is postmodern discourse on sexuality, though she has previously avoided disclosing much about her personal life. Having embarked on therapy for depression while recovering from breast cancer, Sedgwick (Epistemology of the Closet, etc.) finally confronts the connection between her own sexual nature and her life's work, while also facing her feelings about death and family. In a narrative structured around her sessions with a heterosexual male therapist, she spends a good deal of time questioning whether he can appreciate her intellect or ever understand her worldview, particularly her deep infatuations with gay men and her complex sadomasochistic fantasies. The sessions lead her to several realizations: that she has an attraction to the dying and the dead; that she is in love with her mother, who, according to a running family joke, is a latent lesbian; that, although she has been married for 25 years, she does have authentic links to ""queer"" experience; and that she is worthy of acceptance by others--as well as by her therapist.

2. SUICIDE AND DEPRESSION EXPANSE

2.1:

‘Tis a dangerous moment for anyone when the meaning goes out of things and Life stands straight-and...yet no content comes. Yet such moments are. If we survive them they expand us.-Emily Dickinson, Prose Fragment 49.

I clutched at sounds
and groped at shapes
and still my heart did groan
in some endless wilderness
it wailed, lamented bone.
I could not find the golden lines,
silver or hyacinth--only a base metal
from which I made a nail
for my sackcloth shirt and tail.
I felt it in the afternoons
when the light angled low;
it left a scar; it left a hurt
deep down, a feeling, woe.

‘Twas a sense of full despair
and it hung like weighted rocks.
When it went I felt expanse,
Immortality, like darkness
leaving from the grass and
all creation in a dance.

Ron Price
25 June 1995

2.2:

Stephen Gill writes, in his analysis of the poetry and life of William Wordsworth, that the poet doesn't deal with fact but with the poetry of the imagination. The brain, he says, generates its own cues for recalling memories. And so it is that the recreation of the self hinges on infusing mental states into the environment & on the ability to change the self-image in beneficial directions so that one can undertake the arduous task of a poetic vocation. Gill, of course, is writing about Wordsworth, but I have found over the years that much that applies to Wordsworth and his writing applies to me and my writing. The self, writes Gill, is a bi-product of a reality monitoring process; it is perceptually driven and reflectively generated. Autobiography became for Wordsworth what it has become for me, a way of watching over my conduct, of giving it shape, of inventorying and stylizing daily behaviour and of constructing identity. As I attempt to comment on the several issues that I do in this chapter the commentary of Stephen Gill is highly relevant.

In "Auden Askew" Barbara Everett reviews the books W.H. Auden: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter(Allen and Unwin, 500 pages, 1981), & Early Auden by Edward Mendelson(Faber, 400 pages, 1981). Everette writes in the last words of that review: "There is really no ‘Auden story’ to tell, either in biography or criticism, because his life clearly got nowhere, and his art was not of the kind that develops steadily and out of itself. He was, rather, like Dryden, a professional poet, endlessly generously responsive to the demands and challenges of the moment. His career has no real pattern just as his life has no real form: there are only the enormous number of good poems which he wrote, all of them highly vulnerable to criticism for one thing or another. Why not?" I'm not sure how accurate those words are but, as I reflect on how they might apply to my own life, it seems to me that: (i) I do have a story to tell, (ii) I can see pattern and direction in my life, (iii) my poetry has developed steadily and out of itself, although it seemed to take a long time coming--into my 50s, (iv) I wrote endlessly once I got going in my fifties, but (v) I leave it to others to decide whether the prose-poetry I write is good, bad or indifferent. I find it difficult to assess the quality of my work,although I have kept accurate figures on the quantity.

2.3:

‘Every critic,’ H.L. Mencken wrote in his notebooks, is in the position, so to speak, of God ... He can smite without being smitten. He challenges other men’s work, and is exposed to no comparable challenge of his own. The more reputations he breaks, the more his own reputation is secured – and there is no lawful agency to determine, as he himself professes to determine in the case of other men, whether his motives are honest and his methods are fair." In my many years now of writing criticism I have taken a softer, a gentler, stance and style. Henry Louis "H. L." Mencken(1880-1956) was an American journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, critic of American life and culture, and scholar of American English. Known as the "Sage of Baltimore", he is regarded as one of the most influential American writers and prose stylists of the first half of the twentieth century. Many of his books remain in print. I did not come across this fine writer until I had retired from the demands of employment, of raising children, and engaging extensively in community life.

Al Alvarez(1929-)was an English poet, novelist, essayist and critic who was in that position of God to which Mencken refers above until he started to question his methods and motives. In his autobiography he looked back with some regret on a long life as a professional man of letters, a poetry editor of the Observer, a contributor to the New Yorker under William Shawn, a TV and radio critic and commentator, a good old-fashioned littérateur. Reflecting on his years spent writing about contemporary poetry, ‘always the shabbiest and most malicious fringe of the literary world’, he admitted that during those ten long years he wrote criticism regularly, seriously and sometimes even passionately; but secretly he siad, he believed that criticism was somehow not a wholly valid occupation. It was more like a holding operation while he waited for the unlikely moment – it became more and more unlikely as the years went by – when his luck would change and his number would come up. He said that he thought of what he was doing as a long apprenticeship in the discipline of prose. It was good for me, like callisthenics, but somehow to one side of his real concerns.

2.4:

It is good to admit, and good of Alvarez to admit, that the writing of criticism is often an act of postponement. This explains a lot: what are Christopher Ricks’s essays, say, or Harold Bloom’s books, but preludes to great unwritten poems? And mere reviewing is even worse: apology rather than excuse. So was Alvarez wasting his time? Not entirely. He was and remains one of the few critics both to understand the appeal of Ted Hughes’s poetry and grasp its dangers – quite an achievement. In Where Did It All Go Right? he returns to the fray, commenting bitterly on what he calls Hughes’s ‘loony methods for getting through to his creative under-life’, and criticising them for their effects on Sylvia Plath, on whom ‘Hughes’s creative strategies’, he claims: "would have worked ... like, say, the ‘recovered memory’ games untrained rogue psychotherapists play on unwary patients – releasing the inner demons then stepping aside with no thought of the consequences. Because he truly believed in her talent he did it ... in the name of poetry. He handed her the key she had been looking for to find her dead father and, always the good student, she went down into the cellarage, key in hand. But the ghouls she released were malign. They helped her write great poems, but they destroyed her marriage, then they destroyed her.

It is clear, I think, from this kind of roughing up, that Alvarez is interested primarily not in literary, but in moral criticism. And in this he has been exemplary and consistent. In an article on ‘The Limits of Analysis’, for example, published in the American Scholar back in 1959, he claimed that ‘fundamentally, the fault of merely technical analysis is much the same as that of merely appreciative criticism, for all that one exploits a method, and the other a trick of sensitivity. Both are too easy; both, essentially, are at best middlebrow.’ ‘The two essential elements of primary criticism,’ he goes on to say, "are judgment and intuitive pertinacity ... The one demand that can be reasonably made of the critic is that he be original. In the last analysis, it doesn’t matter if he is right or wrong, bigoted or generous, narrow-minded or catholic, provided he says his own say, gets his own feelings straight and sets up his own standards for inspection and, if necessary, for disagreement; provided, that is, he creates his own moral world with as much intelligence as he can muster.

And what is the relevance of all this to my life? I think there are at least two points worth making. The first point is that: much of my life has been one of callisthenics, a warm-up to my writing life which emerged by degrees from, say, 1983 to 2003, when my autobiography and its more than 800 pages were placed in the BWC Library. By the time I was 60 I was fully ensconced in a literary life. I became interested in such a variety of topics due to the fact that I had been exposed to them over 60 years of living. I also had my mind and emotions polished and perfected in ways that only experience and extensive reading can produce and prepare. The second point is one of contrast with Alvarez: he looked back with some regret; whereas I look back with appreciation for the light and mercy that were the results of the fires and vengeances of life's tests. Of course, I would not go so far as to say I have no regrets; I think regret and remorse have the function of, if not eliminating weakness, at least helping one to live another day. Tests that do not kill you can, as they say, give you greater strengths.

3. REGRET AND REMORSE

VICTORY THROUGH FAILURE

Nothing is more fruitful for man than the knowledge of his own shortcomings.-'Abdu'l-Bahá, Promulgation, p.244.

...you cannot lay remorse upon the innocent nor lift it from the heart of the guilty. Unbidden shall it call in the night, that men may wake and gaze upon themselves.-Kahlil Gibran, Prophet, p.43.

Unbidden it called this morning, early,
around my ears like a sleepy mosquito
who was only into dull roars. It headed
for my eyes and my shutting them had no
effect as it climbed right on into my brain,
slowly eating its way to my heart, stopping
on its way to burn my liver if it could-and it did.

I looked upon myself like some prisoner
whose regret was like some jail-cell barring
me from joy and colouring my morning with
the nethermost fire of remorse. I would be here
again, I thought, for I was so far from the
immortal Wine. And yet, and yet, I would
not be estranged from this Cause and these
vicissitudes of fortune would not draw me away
from my Goal: I hoped! I hoped! I hoped!

For I found meaning here, right here, in
these tribulations. I was not radiant, not happy;
I had not learned this yet, but I had learned
to search for meaning and this would have to do
and I did. The radiance came later, years later.
Weary, I stood at the window at dawn and watched
the rising sun. Slowly my eyes gladdened, invaded
and sustained with the fresh meaning of gold
and the subtle tempter, for the moment, slipped away.

My sense of fitness returned. Perhaps this fire
would be removed; perhaps it would go on for years.
For great forces churned inside me and tore me apart
and had all my days. Tremendous energies were
often released. I trust this will happen again perhaps
through my failures, yet again, yet again.

Ron Price
16 December 1995

One of the twentieth century's famous feminists, Simon de Beauvoir, wrote that in writing her autobiography she wanted to create an identity of her own and win for herself an ethical centre. She knew that in this struggle she was not successful in all respects. So is this true of me as I go about commenting on these issues and struggling with my struggles in this poetry and in my life.

Identity in many ways has come to mean for me what it is for the post-structuralist, namely, a site of contesting selves: past self, present self, public self, private self. I as a writer must choose and/or invent a speaking self.

4. COMMUNITY

A NECESSARY INSTABILITY

The community should not be like a chain which is only as strong as its weakest link, but like a garment whose fibers, the warp and weft, may be ever so slender, numerous and intimately connected.-Ron Price with appreciation to Charles S. Pierce, Collected Papers 5.264.

Some see the meaning of life
As making a contribution to the community,
for here the creative personality
is born and matured;
it is the gift of evolution,
the ordering of inequality,
the integration of the individual,
where restraint and self-control
are part of self-esteem.
One day community feeling
will triumph over everything
that opposes it, as natural
to man as breathing,
the scientific inevitability
of social harmony
slowly overcoming the force
of antisocial dispositions
now so preponderant in the world,
at least in certain places.

Perhaps a Ciceronian stoicism
to start with and a widening
secular spirituality, as the blank page
whirls about in the winds of the spirit
and we come to understand cognition,
the social restraints
which limit our options,
define our choices
and generate what seems to us
as a restriction of potential.

Ron Price
26 June 1995

"Our years come to an end like a sigh," so it says in the Psalms(90). "They are soon gone and we fly away." Much of the landscape of my life, however much it has involved a search for solitude and peace, it has also involved a great deal of the landscape of community. One of the first epic's based on community and individualism in the western intellectual tradition was Homer's Odyssey. Amidst what were once a thousand entertaining and instructive episodes for western readers, the hero, Odysseus, is hardly ever absent from the story. His lonely voyage, part and parcel of the emerging Greek city state that he and it was, in strangely mixed scenes of human existence, I have over the years felt a strong identity with. For I too have travelled, part and parcel of an emerging global Order in our time, an Order that was, like Odysseus', hundreds of years in the future before it would reach its apotheosis. There was a strangeness to it, an excitement, a sense of the bizarre. It was written, too, in the Formative, the Iron, Age of Greek culture. Perhaps, as history specialist Anthony Andrewes writes, "the very instability and incoherence of Greek political institutions" led to "a political evolution which was denied to other cultures."

One often sensed this instability in these early years of the evolution of the Bahai administrative Order, especially working as I have so frequently over the last forty years with the new institutions which Bahaullah has created with an inventiveness and brilliance that only a Manifestation of God could possess. There was a fragility not unlike the flowers of the garden. But, then, it was difficult to get a right and proper sense of historical perspective, for it took hundreds of years before the golden age of Greek culture finally arrived. And we, the Bahais, in this first century of the Formative Age, are really right at the beginning--about the time that Odysseus was on his voyage. At least one could argue the case. And so I do, as I comment from a historical perspective on this poetry, dealing as it does with some of the issues of our day.

5. SOCIAL PROBLEMS

THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF REALITY

Because of American poet Wallace Stevens's emphasis on the importance of the imagination, he is sometimes criticized for being little in touch with social issues and political realities.1 Some who read Price's poetry extensively may find, may conclude, a similar out-of-touchness in its content. Certainly there are relatively few poems about particular and explicit social problems like: war, poverty, unemployment, domestic violence, and refugees among so many others. At the same time, I write about the agitations of private life and the torments of public questions. It seems to me that there also exists in my poetry what John Brenkman calls a utopian power.2 This power derives from, or lies in, my poetry's many concrete connections and its language of of everyday practice and living with its relevant social contexts. As I see it, my poetry does not aim to separate itself from those contexts or to set itself above them. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Alan Shucard, Modern American Poetry: 1865-1950, Alan Shucard, et al., Twayne Publishers, Boston, 1989, p.149; and 2John Brenkman, Culture and Domination, 1987, p.108.

I write about social and political issues,
in context, finding a context, searching
for a context, concerned as I am with
expressing my experience within this
new Order, with defining its reality, its
ambience, its future, its past, its present
construct, with giving language to all
that I am and all that is this System
represented in this poetry of heightened
visual, imaginative, intellectual sensibility,
giving words to things others never notice
in the everyday, paying attention to colours,
shapes, textures, objects, time's relationships
that are right in front of me, hard, clear, real:
incorporating and integrating into the what
the what that is me and the when, where, why.

What can we call it:

the social construction of reality?

Ron Price
24 June 1995
Updated: 4/12/07

The sociologist Alvin Gouldner says that in life, in society, the norm of anonymity is "a necessary adjunct" to what he calls "the short-take society wherein one goes from one short-take role to another." Between these short-takes one must "be accorded civil inattention and encouraged quickly to change roles" not to sustain relationships. There is no doubt that throughout a large part of one's life this is true, but there are situations where most of us have to deal with relationships that are not short takes. These are found, for me, in marriage, in some jobs and in some experiences of the Bahai community.

Edward Sampson writes that "what is meant is continuously being reframed by what is...said." One could put the same idea this way: "how do I know what I think until I see what I've said?" The self is a product of the social arrangements which support it. The nature of those supports themselves are increasingly, although not always, multiple and fragmentary, temporary and without depth. Viewed from this perspective even the mind becomes a form of social myth and the self-concept is removed from the head and placed within the sphere of social discourse. Max Weber observes that both for sociology and for history the object of cognition is subjective meaning. This subjective meaning is both the basis for and the complex of action. The point here is not that "anything goes," but rather that "everything is contingent"; not that there are no rules, but that the rules that do exist are decidedly "historically and culturally situated." At the same time, from a Bahá'í perspective, I am inclined to the view that there are essential metaphysical verities and these verities are eminently prone to potentially endless revisions. These revisions ensure that "the self is not an organic thing that has a specific location but is, rather, a dramatic effect arising diffusely from the scene that is presented..." This autobiography and the way I see my life has been significantly affected by this 'social constructionist' line of thinking.

PERSONAL REMINISCENCES

All attempts to write about persons or events, however important, to which the poet is not intimately related in a personal way are now doomed to failure....Auden's elegies are linguistic homes in which the dead continue to abide, their words and ideas held fast among the words and ideas of the living poet. -Jahan Ramazani, Poetry of Mourning: The Modern Elegy from Hardy to Heaney, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1994, pp.201-203.

I often wondered why writing about, say,
Julius Caesar or Churchill, was so difficult;
or even the old starving China boys
that my mother used to talk about
when trying to get me to eat my vegetables,
or the disaster in Dneipropetrovsk
or Novosibirsk, or the Chukchi people
and their rain dance: one needs some
kind of intimacy really.

We each have different worlds.
Now, Mr. Auden, I find writing begins
both from the sense of separateness in time
and the sense of continuity
of the dead, the living and the still-to-be-born.
It all goes on and on, virtually, forever,
Although my short span will soon end
and, as you say, these words are like
carving my initials on my desk,
maybe someone will read them one day:
‘tis a type of rising from the dead,
or as some say...an ever-advancing civilization.

If this is too pretentious then
just some personal reminiscences,
just reminiscences, Mr. Auden.

Ron Price
30 June 1995

THE GREYING OF THE RED AND YELLOW PERIL

We grew up at a time
when Karkhov, Kiev and Dnepropetrovsk
were black foot-prints in the snow-Bruce Dawe, "What Lies on Us", Sometimes Gladness, 3rd edition, Longman, 1988, p.142.

Most of us grew up at a time
when Krushev, Kiev and Kennedy
were part of the language of the big world
that we only ever partly understood at best.
The yellow beast and her red friend
gradually became greyer and greyer
and then the whole thing fell apart
in a brave new world
for which most of us
had lost whatever bravery we had.

By then, I'd lived in so many houses,
in so many towns, known too many
women and thousands of people
that I was never shocked by headlines
or news from the lighted chirping box
and its anonymous deaths,
or private griefs
immortalized yet again
for the zillionth time on film.

I clean my teeth and wind the clock
for I am still living.
I have just returned from another evening
where I watch merchandised desire
and rented embraces exhaust the night air,
where frightened cries rise occasionally
and pierce the quiet suburban landscape.

What is happening now
that the land has become grey
and the red and yellow hues
do not threaten us still?
What does all this mean
for us who have seen a century
bathed in blood and tears
on television and in movies?

Ron Price
17 December 1995

This would be a good juncture to make some comments on television and the movies, mediums that have become very infuential in the half century that this autobiography is concerned with. I have collected three arch-lever files of notes on the media from the recent times that I taught media studies and I could wax eloquent. Instead I will include another poem here. It was inspired by a documentary.

SAINTSHIP

After ten years you go beyond feeling.-C. Chessman, BBC, 1993, ABC TV, 30 November 1995: Great Crimes and Trials of the Twentieth Century. Chessman was a man waiting on death row in California from 1950 to 1962, in the years I was preparing, little did I know it, for a lifetime of pioneering.

After thirty-three years in the field
your feelings learn to protect themselves
with humorous asides and saying ‘no,'
dwelling in some inner landscape
where the Master rides, lightly rides:
in the mountains you reach for Him.

You cloak yourself in a privacy
which sometimes tastes of dignity
and a hint of spiritual charm
like a herbal remedy, ever so distant,
ever so subtle, dry even.

Sometimes you feel like a delectable,
mysterious sauce, piquant,
puzzlingly attractive,
lingers on the tongue,
surprising their taste buds
with unexpected combinations
of colourful, scented, ingredients.

You meet the human need
for delighted astonishment,
but sadly(thankfully?) only sometimes.1

So much of it is dry paperland
with no more juice
than some of those useless lemons,
that is why you admit people to friendship slowly.
You had to after winning
all those popularity contests
which you didn't even want to enter:
So you perfected evasion into an art form;
kept away the bore, the pedant, the obtuse,
the fake, the chatterbox, the loud,
just about everyone: gave them the slip
when they blundered uninvited
with their chit-chat into your personal space,
with their well-intentioned catechism of things
that would be good for you.
For the cosmic patriotism of this Cause
and its enthusiastic temper of espousal
can get a little thin,
unless one is constitutionally sanguine
and possesses a congenital amnesia,
an incapacity for even transient sadness,
a temperament organically weighted
on the side of cheer,
fatally forbidden to linger,
even momentarily, on the dark side.
But you, and many of them,
have a different susceptibility
to emotional excitement,
to the impulses and inhibitions
that they bring in their train.

This rank-and-file believer,
part of the warp and weft,
an ordinary chap,
seems to have softened with the years,
has unobtrusively acquired
an incapacity for those sacrificial moods
that once inspired his being;
perhaps he has just learned
to inhibit his instinctive repugnances
and has acquired a firece contempt
for his own person
which he is learning to moderate
in both his private and public domains.

Is this how one discovers and measures saintship?

1 When I look at some celebrities especially comedians, like Robyn Williams, I wonder how what seems like their infinite capacity to delight others must have a wear and tear factor on their lives.

Ron Price
30 November 1995

6. CRISES

Part 1:

In the 72 years since my conception in early-to-mid October 1943 there world has witnessed crises unprecedented in their magnitude and scope. I leave it to readers and viewers to examine these crises which have been documented in more detail than the crises of any previous age or epoch.

PERSISTENCE

The way that we perceive and react to an event or crisis is largely responsible for the ultimate effect of that event upon us. If we can understand and make sense out of an event...the impact of that event will be less dreadful. -A. Ghadirian, ‘Human Responses to Life Stress and Suffering', Bahá'í Studies Notebook, 3, 1-2, 1983, p.50.

One constant in a world of variables
--they'd be there come rain or shine.
Not many, mind, but someone was always there.
My mother always said they were the only people
who'd have a picnic in the rain:
they'd bargain with the sun.

It must be all those birds collapsing over Akka
which you hear about in their history:
all that blood, sweat and tears.

Yes, you find persistence here,
fed by the blood of those martyrs
and enough joy to take you the distance.

Ron Price
17 December 1995

Part 2:

It has been nearly half a century since the appearance of Susan Sontag’s landmark essay “The Imagination of Disaster.” Sontag wrote of the public fascination with science fiction disaster films, claiming that, on the one hand “from a psychological point of view, the imagination of disaster does not greatly differ from one period in history to another but, on the other hand from a political and moral point of view, it does”. Even if Sontag is right about aspects of the imagination of disaster not changing, the types, frequency, and magnitude of disasters and their representation in media and popular culture suggest that dynamic conditions prevail on both counts. Disaster has become a significantly urban phenomenon, and highly publicized “worst case” scenarios such as Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake highlight multiple demographic, cultural, and environmental contexts for visualising cataclysm. The 1950s and 60s science fiction films that Sontag wrote about were filled with marauding aliens and freaks of disabused science. Since then, their visual and dramatic effects have been much enlarged by all kinds of disaster scenarios. Partly imagined, these scenarios have real-life counterparts with threats from terrorism and the war on terror, pan-epidemics, and global climate change.

Most if not all of the films Sontag mentioned involved the rebuilding following extra-terrestrial invasion. It ignored what was likely to happen when the monsters were gone. In contrast, the psychological as well as the practical, social, and economic aspects of reconstruction are integral to disaster discourse today. Writing about how architecture might creatively contribute to post-conflict (including war) and disaster recovery, for instance, Boano elaborates the psychological background for rebuilding, where the material destruction of dwellings and cities “carries a powerful symbolic erosion of security, social well-being and place attachment”; these are depicted as attributes of self-hood and identity that must be restored. Similarly, Hutchison and Bleiker adopt a view evident in disaster studies, that disaster-struck communities experience “trauma” and require inspired responses that facilitate “healing and reconciliation” as well as material aid such as food, housing, and renewed infrastructure.

Part 2.1:

The paper from which I am quoting here revisits Sontag’s “The Imagination of Disaster,” fifty years on in view of the changing face of disasters and their representation in film media, including more recent films. The paper then considers disaster recovery and outlines the difficult path that “creative industries” like architecture and urban planning must tread when promising a vision of rebuilding that provides for such intangible outcomes as “healing and reconciliation.” We find that hopes for the seemingly positive psychologically, and socially, recuperative outcomes accompanying the prospect of rebuilding risk a variety of generalisation akin to wish-fulfilment that Sontag finds in disaster films.

In “The Imagination of Disaster,” written at or close to the height of the Cold War, Sontag ruminates on what America’s interest in, if not preoccupation with, science fiction films tell us about ourselves. Their popularity cannot be explained in terms of their entertainment value alone; or if it can, then why audiences found (and still find) such films entertaining is something that itself needs explanation. Depicted in media like photography and film, utopian and dystopian thought have at least one thing in common. Their visions of either perfected or socially alienated worlds are commonly prompted by criticism of the social/political status quo and point to its reform. For Sontag, science fiction films portrayed both people’s worst nightmares concerning disaster and catastrophe (e.g. the end of the world; chaos; enslavement; mutation), as well as their facile victories over the kinds of moral, political, and social dissolution the films imaginatively depicted.

Sontag does not explicitly attribute such “happy endings” to wish-fulfilling phantasy and ego-protection. (“Phantasy” is to be distinguished from fantasy. It is a psychoanalytic term for states of mind, often symbolic in form, resulting from infantile wish-fulfilment, desires and instincts.) She does, however, describe the kinds of fears, existential concerns (like annihilation), and crises of meaning they are designed (purpose built) to allay. The fears are a product of the time—the down and dark side of technology (e.g. depersonalisation; ambivalence towards science, scientists, and technology) and changes wrought in our working and personal lives by urbanisation. In short, then as now, science fictions films were both expressions of deep and genuine worries and of the pressing need to inventively set them to rest.

When Sontag claims that “the imagination of disaster does not greatly differ” (224) from one period to another, this is because, psychologically speaking, neither the precipitating concerns and fears (death, loss of love, meaninglessness, etc.), nor the ways in which people’s minds endeavour to assuage them, substantively differ. What is different is the way they are depicted. This is unsurprisingly a function of the political, social, and moral situations and milieus that provide the context in which the imagination of disaster unfolds. In contemporary society, the extent to which the media informs and constructs the context in which the imagination operates is unprecedented.

7. DEATH

WOULDN'T HE?

These apocalyptic elegies are indeed not conventional expressions of consolation but triumphant outbursts directed...to the dead and Emily Dickinson's own anguish...an anguish distilled...into triumph.1 Here, in this poem below, is my own triumphant outburst with my usual cautionary note derived from Bahai theology regarding our final moments. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Benjamin Lease, Emily Dickinson's Readings of Men and Books: Sacred Soundings, MacMillan, London, 1990, p.xvii.

All across the world they lie
behind grey stone
and obscurest graveyards
in places noone's heard
on the edge of town.
Yes, heaven's humble handful
and not-so-humble,
among simple stones
and not-so-simple.
Hardly heroes, hardly known:
servants, gentlemen, ladies,
every conceiveable type,
they're all here behind stone.

Words carved by unknown hands:
Pioneer Canada Nine Year Plan.
He'd planned his. Knew who he was.

Identity grew into stone
that would last a thousand years.

He was going to end this one befittingly;
I mean it was his life, himself,
his mirror of some eternal hyacinth
growing forever in a garden
of eternal splendour, forged,
cut diamond-edged, glittering whiteness
on that snow-white path so close,
touching that Crimson Pillar
and trustworthiness's pillar of light.
He would, at least, feel it.
Wouldn't he?

Ron Price
28 October 1995

Perhaps the inclusion at this point of some lines from one of Emily Dickinson's apocalyptic elegies, an elegy that is not so much a triumphant outburst as it is "anguish distilled" into a quiet triumph. In poem number 1142 she opens with the lines:

The Props assist the House
Until the House is built
And then the Props withdraw
And adequate, erect,
The House supports itself.

It is logical to assume that 'the House' here is the human soul. The Bahai might add that "The House supports itself" with the help of God and prayer. Dickinson concludes this pithy piece as follows:

A past of Plank and Nail
And slowness--then the Scaffolds drop
Affirming it a Soul.

Dickinson provides here a succinct phrase to capture, to express, for me and for her a discernible shape to this poetic work. Seemingly diffuse and sprawling, there is an intellectual depth in her literary eccentricity--and in mine. At least there is depth for me---and hopefully for readers who chance by the rivers of thought this work contains. In the last two decades of Dickinson's life, 1863-1883, the idea of finishing a poem became repugnant to Dickinson. For me, the idea of finishing this autobiography is, not so much repugnant, as unrealistic. There are always things to add, to take away and to alter and I'm sure this will be the case as long as I live and can function.

Out of the complicated and confused welter of feelings, thoughts, and actions that makes up an individual’s life, the creative writer selects those particular events, emotions, and thoughts that portray a pattern or clarify a tendency or hint at a hidden potential. The details represented in this quite lengthy work can suggest the meaning or lack thereof in my life. When I speak of the self, at least if I draw on the words of the Bahá'í psychiatrist H. B. Danesh, I am talking about my being as I experience it and as it is perceived by others. It includes, he adds: “the conscious & unconscious parts of the psyche; the physical, mental, & emotional dimensions of our personality; & both the egoistical and the universal aspects of our behaviour. It is towards this integrated and whole concept of our being that we are all attracted.”

The intellect, or the “rational soul” as Abdul-Baha names it, is the part of the mind that we are most familiar with. It is the rational soul that allows us to make new discoveries, to find medical cures, and to develop new software programs. In short, it is the rational soul that allows us to discover the secrets of the material universe, and write this autobiography. When this rational soul is assisted by the spirit of faith, as this work clearly is, it is able to turn its power of discovery toward the spiritual realm and to become “acquainted with the divine secrets and heavenly realities.”('Abdul-Bahá, Some Answered Questions 208). It is the intellect assisted by faith and enriched by the purified heart that puts us in touch with our spiritual potential. Through determined efforts one’s heart can become so polished (that is, purified) that it is able to reflect fully the spiritual attributes latent within the individual. Then the intellect assisted by such a purified heart is able to penetrate what ‘Abdu’l-Bahá calls the veil “covering the eye of inner vision that we may behold the manifestations of the signs of God, discern His mysterious graces and realize that material blessings as compared with spiritual bounties are as nothing” (Promulgation 90).

8. SEX

THE SMILE

The chronic cleavage between love and sexual desire is a disease of western man. Here in Australia was a Canadian who got lots of practice of learning to love women whom he desired sexually but did not give that desire sexual expression. Here was a Canadian with a face like the back side of a spoon, etched with a smile, with a cautious reserve and the flavour of irony every time he tasted his world and his words. -With thanks to Robertson Davies and his comments on writing on The ABC program Writers and Writing, 25 June 1995, 8:00-8:20 pm.

I'd learned to smile and say cheese
as good as anyone else in that country
of bland faces like the back of a spoon;
and when I finally learned that skill,
after getting rid of my depressions,
well, not quite, they lingered long,
I left for Australia where in that dry land
people's faces and mouths tell stories,
some of which you wished you didn't know.

Scratch that smiling exterior
of a Canadian face and underneath
you get a gem of fascinating complexity.
I've been discovering one all my life
with the help of Australians
who are much more frank, funny
and facially expressive:
bodies are alive here.
They've been jumping out at me
in classrooms where I teach,
on the street when I walk
or drive around, even on TV
and in my own house where
she's been jumping out at me
for nearly thirty years.

The whole place is alive
with body language.
The women have been turning me on
so much I'm like a spinning top.

But I always have my Canadian face
to smile at the world:
the cheerful Canadian, the good-guy,
the nice guy.

It's too much work for most people
to get to know what's behind the smile,
but I don't mind. I'm busy enough
getting to know me. That'll keep me busy
the rest of my life and, with age,
the temptations have not been hitting me
in the face as much

Ron Price
25 June 1995

9. APOCALYPSE

WRITING BEFORE THE DAWN: SUSAN SONTAG

These are the darkest hours before the break of day. Peace, as promised, will come at night's end. Press on to meet the dawn.-Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message, 1993.

The present age lives by a scenario in which apocalypse looms and it doesn't occur...And still it looms. -Susan Sontag in Susan Sontag: the Elegiac Modernist, Sohnya Sayre, Routledge, NY, 1990, p.147.

But how does one tell the tale of an apocalypse that was so long in coming and promises to be as long in going? Where to begin and, more importantly, where to end as we live in and live out of it? It would seem, at first, a slow apocalypse but, in the end, it may appear fast. Time perspectives are often mysterious. Given its impalpability, its lubricity, can this protracted apocalypse be grasped, or only sensed faintly as we slip listlessly through it? Oh, and by the way, is this apocalypse real, or merely a rhetorical device to be activated by millenarians, debunked by critics, and ignored by everyone else? Is "Apocalypse" but a way to connect a vast constellation of other metaphors, whose referents are themselves finally just the vague grumblings and grim presentiments of a culture perennially fixated on the chances of its own demise? - Andrew McMurry, "The Slow Apocalypse: A Gradualistic Theory of The World's Demise," Postmodern Culture, V6 N3, May, 1996.

In these early years of
the last stage of history
you have written, written,
like so many, pouring
a flood of knowledge
onto a world drowning,
drowning apocalyptically.

I always admired your work,
your endless, obsessive work
and your insights: tragedy is
the way we acknowledge
the world's implacability.*

The House referred to it as
a ‘discouragingly meagre' response.
Then, there was your succinct statement
on comedy as a precarious ascendancy.*
You wrote so much.
Most people I've ever met
just stay out of the ball park
or way out in left field;
you become the lone figure
in the lonely landscape,
you who have been writing
since the beginning of this
Kingdom of God on earth.**

You knew, then, that thought was
in ruins and your eschatological mentality
and concern for religious redemption
never found its way near
the Nightengale of Paradise
Who sang upon the Tree of Eternity.
Your melancholy, your seriousness,
your death of history, of self, of culture,
your homelessness, your autobiographical
thinking***, heroic amidst the ruins,
seeking to simplify, not trusting----
all in an apocalyptic mood
which looms while we wait,
a stealth apocalypse plodding
camouflaged among us hiding
among us in plain site, looming
in these last dark minutes and hours
before the break of dawn.

* Susan Sontag, ibid., p.90.
** Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By(US, 1957), p.351; the beginning was 1953.
***Sohnya Sayre, ibid., p.128; all thinking has an autobiographical aspect says Sohnya.

October 3 1995

10. RETIREMENT

SOME UNHEARD VOICE

"Called in my late fifties to this high office/for a record term..."1 I, too, felt called by my late fifties after the feeling had grown for perhaps a decade. By that time I did not have to spend time with the responsibilities of job and endless meetings.-Ron Price with thanks to 1Bruce Dawe, "The Vision Splendid", Sometimes Gladness, 3rd edition, Longmans, 1988, p.183.

Called in my fifties to this high office

for what is coming to look like a record term,

I receive no honours for my grey hairs

or my endless combination of words;

perhaps this is because I seek no honours,

only this late afternoon sunlight glittering

like sparks of stubble over all of creation,

a vitalizing fragrance, too,

like some dawning-place, some day-spring,

some transmutation of grief into blissful joy.



Replenished from deep springs,

perhaps the Ancient of Days,

or some unheard voice

from a burning bush, some bounty

beyond the ken of mortal mind or heart*,

I sing in the company of the most exalted angels,

but still I hesitate and halt, still I shake

to my very foundation, still my sorrow

and tears accompany by blissful joy.



Ron Price

19 December 1995



* Bahá'u'lláh, The Tablet of Carmel



11. MARRIAGE AND SOCIABILITY



A FORTRESS FOR WELL-BEING



Many people visit others out of a desire to have company, be sociable, pass the time, etcetera. Many others, at the other end of the social spectrum, are lonely and in need of company. Another group of people don't want any company and are happy with their own. Working out your own ‘sociability index' is important to your peace of mind, sense of social tranquillity and personal integrity. -Ron Price with thanks to George Simmel in The Sociological Tradition, Robert Nisbet, Heinemann, 1966, p.308.



I think if I had a free and healthy and lasting organization of heart and lungs as strong as an ox's so as to bear unhurt the shock of extreme thought and sensation without weariness, I could pass my life very nearly alone, though it should last eighty years.-John Keats, In a Letter to John Hamilton Reynolds, 24 August 1819.



Give me a call sometime; didn't I tell you

the greatest journey in life is to relieve

the sorrow-laden heart.1

If you're ever feeling a little low,

drop in, no need to give me a call,

unless you want.



I find when I say this not many drop in,

so don't get the idea that you are imposing

on my time. I'm not the most popular fellow

with everyone and their dog dropping in.

My wife keeps my spirits pretty good,

quite an understanding lady really

and I find I can talk to my son

like a friend, when sadness visits me.



So we've got a, what ‘Abdu'l-Bahá called,

a fortress for well-being2 here,

a safe haven, a quiet place,

a silent garden where only birds

and blowing branches can he heard.

Can I say a wave of tenderness is here?

Mostly. There are barriers here

which we do not pass:

each in separate solitudes

in separate rooms much of the time,

You will find greater and lesser pearls

in the corners of our rooms,

in our garden and hidden away

in shallow seas and rivulettes

that run through our lives.

Set free in a diamond studded array,

kept secret mostly, modestly arranged,

for God hath set all things free

from one another

that they may be sustained

by Him alone,

and nothing in the heavens

or in the earth, but God,sustains them.3



1 ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, source not known

2 other quotations from marriage prayers

3 The Bab, from His Tablet El Kadir(The Mighty)



Ron Price

29 December 1995



12. WAR



In recent years, at least since the late 1980s and 1990s, the subject of warfare has become more popular, partly because war and terror are back in the social picture, partly because the whole of the last century has seen one war after another, partly an end of history climate of apocalypticism, partly because we increasingly see a relationship between our own daily activity and war, partly rhetorical inflation, partly endless media hype and partly because of an increasingly loaded language with warfare terminology: military-industrial complex, consciousness industry, territories, borders, logistics, defences, inter alia.



DAYTON'S TEMPORARY BOND AND TV'S SCATTER GUN



The first peace talks in my life, the first end-of-war talks were in 1945 at Yalta. There were then a series of peace talks in Korea, in Viet Nam, in relation to the Cold War, in the Balkans, in the Arab-Israeli War, the list seems endless. As I write this poem there are peace talks going on nearly sixty years after the first ones in my life. "Why were there peace talks in Dayton Ohio?"-Ron Price with thanks to Alister Cook, "Message from America," ABC Radio, Sunday, 26 November 1995, 7:15 pm and 21 February 2003.



The Wright Bros would not have believed it;

we did not believe it:

peace in the Balkans-at last!

Is it a sign of things to come?

If we can sort out this knot

anything is possible.

Who would have thought you could fly?

Who would have thought we'd get peace

in our time?



They're turning in their graves now;

they're turning; things are turning.

There's a turning of the wheel,

some kind of vital axle's here,

some kind of vital oil

as a peaceful Order emerges.



It's an oil ignited in the Siyah-Chal;

gone now around the world,

a light that's far beyond those fairies,

far beyond Dayton's temporary bond.

far from TV's endless scatter gun.



Ron Price

26 November 1995



13. CIVILIZATION



In Kenneth Clark's discussion of civilization he says there are three "essential ingredients:" leisure, movement and independence. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,a German philosopher, wrote that: "The human race is a monotonous affair. Most people spend the greatest part of their time working in order to live, and what little freedom remains so fills them with fear that they seek out any and every means to be rid of it."(The Sorrows of Young Werther) While I would not go all the way with him on this note, I do agree the leisure has presented the society I have lived in with great problems. Abdul-Baha puts the focus on "purity, independence and freedom." This prose-poem explores some of the core problems of civilization at a quite personal level, more personal and deeper for me than is usually examined in the media.



This poetry is

an emotional response

to the truths of revealed religion

in an hour when

my contemporaries

are looking for different truths.



While I tried to understand

these great truths

I moved thirty-six times,

possessed a restless

insatiate curiosity and,

by the time I was sixty,

all I wanted was tranquillity,

the experience of fine discrimination

and the capacity to discover truth

through the delicate balance of words.



Purity seemed to elude me

as the years went on

and I became increasingly

encrusted with the

soil and soot of a body

of staggering incapacity.



Ron Price

29/5/03.



VOLUME FIVE

CHAPTER NINE

PRAISE AND GRATITUDE

I'd like to close this autobiographical work with some poetry, poetry that is an expression of praise and gratitude for the developments that have taken place on Mt. Carmel. In many ways these developments express, symbolically, the achievements in the half century that this autobiography describes: in my life, in my religion, in the Bahai community and as a hope for humankind. Autobiographies written by Bahais during these years, and there have not been many, extend what you might call a hypothetical hermeneutics1 to correlate the events of Bahai history with episodes in their own lives. And this is what I do in both narrative and poetry. -Ron Price with thanks to Linda Peterson, Victorian Autobiography: The Tradition of Self-Interpretation, Yale UP, London, 1986, p.61.

1. APPLAUSE

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

and dances...

-William Wordsworth, "I wandered lonely as a cloud".



Walking through these gardens green,

red-pebbled paths and cypress sheen,

He saw those marble columns tall,

a Parthenon reborn; he raises a call

back to the Greeks!

whom for many a year he seeks.



Such a brilliance to the eye,

continuous with the stars who die,

but only after many years

and then their light goes out, my dears.

All of history here he saw,

the future too in one draw

of breath, one cast of eye.

The whole world around it danced so high

He nearly missed the wealth this view had brought

because he had not really thought.



Often when he sits or lies

there comes upon his inward eyes

this flash of beauty like a dream

mountain fresh, torrent, stream.

Then his heart fills up at last;

his rivers run, his mind moves fast.

After years of working for a Cause

his eyes taste sweetness, hands applause.



Ron Price

19 June 1995



2. GESTATION



When artists speak about the gestation period for their work I like to think of a long, medium and short term period. In my own case the long term gestation involved my grandfather, my mother and my father. These were the primary influences on my life in the first half of the twentieth century. Of course, one must also add the socio-historical influences from this period: the two wars, the decline of tradition, the new media, et cetera. The medium term influences involved my career as a teacher, my pioneering and experience in the Bahá'í community, say, from about 1953 to 1978; and short term gestation and influences, especially Roger White and the writing of poetry from 1978 to 1992, my years in the north and west of Australia: 1982 to 1999 and, finally, the Arc Project on Mt. Carmel from 1987 to 2000.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 18 July 2000.



Gradually, an emotional engagement,

an imaginative reconstruction,

a crystallizing of attention,

of life's waiting,

a linguistic enactment,

a private and colloquial voice

an expression of the paradisical

substratum of experience

in a dark and complex age

of the isolation of the individual

of the individual in community

of an emptying out of an articulate self

to clarify and define the Other,

of a lifelong pursuit of a speech

fitting to one's life,

of an insistent and intense personal presence

in touch with a spiritual world

and with human society,

of inner brightness and darkness,

the precious and the painful,

from place to placelessness,

from now to then,

from here to there

in the power and depth of my solitude.



Ron Price

18 July 2000



3. Anyone who has got to this final chapter in my story would probably agree that "a man's true life is not the sum of the events of his life." As authority moved from revelation to reason and experience in the last two to three centuries, a paradigmatic shift took place in the writing of autobiography. From a sense of some objective story, out there, writers became aware that their lives became more private even as they brought them into the public eye, the public domain, by the act of writing. The story oscillated between the presence and absense of the self. That has certainly been my experience in writing this work. I feel as if I have artistically arranged the phenomena of my life for aesthetic, intellectual and moral purposes, for education and reality testing. But I have been honest. I have not hidden behind the lives of uncles, aunts, fathers, mothers, a host of significant individuals who have come into my life or my interests.



The Bahai Faith, some may feel, has occupied too much of a central place. But I put it there and did so intentionally. I have enjoyed writing this account; it has not been distasteful to put myself at the centre of the stage, although I have been incapable of the "striptease of autobiography" that it has become for so many and which has also become the taste of a vast readership. For me, there has been what William James called "a rage for privacy" and this has balanced whatever confessionalism has been part of my work. Autobiographers tend to leave out what makes them uncomfortable. The famous Helen Keller, in her autobiography of 1903, omits the sadness and rage she suffered due to her blindness and deafness.



4. SMALL DIFFERENCES MAKE THE DIFERENCE



The completion of the Human Genome Project, the great achievement that it is, is coinciding with the completion of the Arc Project. Both events change and will change the way we think about ourselves. Just as small differences between our genome and those of other animals and plants reveal what make us uniquely human and profoundly different from animals and plants, so do small differences between the Bahá'í Faith and other Faiths make it the unique and profoundly different phenomen- on that it is. Both Projects have resulted in great gifts, powerful tools, for humanity's use. Both Projects will help human beings find their place in the complex systems that make up the great adventure of life in this universe. Both Projects were launched by inspired visions, visions that were based on the belief that the pursuit of large-scale fundamental problems in the life-sciences or in religion was and is in the interest of humanity. Both Projects are not endings but beginnings of a new approach to biology on the one hand and global cooperation, peace and a new future on the other. Both Projects are identified with extraordinary new power and with the treatment of dis- ease, one a physical disease and the other spiritual. Both are associated with a true internationalism which has developed significantly during these my pioneering days. -Ron Price with thanks to Barbara R. Jasny and Donald Kennedy, "The Human Genome," Science, Vol. 291, No. 5507, 16 February 2001, p.1153.

We get another perspective
on all the life on earth

and on this small and insignificant religion

we have played a part in all these years.



Small differences make

all the difference:

a written Revelation,

a clear statement of succession.

My God, these two factors alone

make it unique and pure.

The unity of life, of religion,

is so obvious, so clear, so true:

I see it on that Hill of God,

still the cynosure of a very few.



Ron Price

24 February 2001



5. A NEW POETIC INFLUENCE



The Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi, which the West comes closest to in the writings of Henry David Thoreau, places the accent in artistic expression, in its aesthetic philosophy, on the rustic, the raw, the rough, on the imperfect, the impermanent, the incomplete, on nothingness, emptiness, detachment. Since much of my poetry contains accents similar to the tone and texture, meaning and feeling, conveyed by these words; since I have long felt a certain identity with the writings of Henry David Thoreau, that pioneer of yesteryear who also wrote extensively about his everyday experience in the bush, in the rustic places where he lived by himself; since the Writings of the Bahai Faith, and of Bahaullah in particular, also dwell on that same mystical quality of nothingness and emptiness, of detachment and the wilderness of remoteness: this particular Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi has a peculiar relevance to my own writings.-Ron Price with thanks to "The Comfort Zone," ABC Radio National, 3 March 2001, 9:00-10:00 am.



Only recently has it been confirmed

that this galaxy has a billion planets,1

only just the other day while

the Arc Project was being completed,

filling out our world with light,

with fragrances of mercy wafted

as they are over all created things,

over that myriad of planets.

And here, in these words,

I shed a unique light on the lives

of men and women of four epochs,

these protean beings who strike

a thousand postures in their lives

and change their spots swifter

than the twinkling of an eye.2



1 Interview with an astronomer at the American Association for the Advancement of Science(AAAS) on "The Science Show," ABC Radio National, 12:10-1:00 pm, 3 March 2001.

2 Robert Louis Stevenson, "Modern History Sourcebook: Samuel Pepys," 1886. He discusses the chameleon nature of human beings in his introduction.



Ron Price

3 March 2001



6. GROWTH 1



Yesterday I wrote a poem, Growth, on my life and the development of that fragrance until 1962. This morning I felt like continuing that theme with a focus on the development of my beliefs, that fragrance. The task seems too difficult to get the required depth. In the poem below I have set an overall outline but the depth, the detail, the kind of achievement that Wordsworth attains in his The Prelude I do not seem able to produce, as yet. I have a model in Wordsworth but my personal achievement in that direction must, for now, remain elusive. Perhaps one day I will come back to this theme, this poetic package.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 28 March 2001.



The only one on campus: '63-'66,

nearly lost the plot

in a mix of depression, sex,

career questions, confusion,

lectures, note taking and exams.



Was saved, in the end,

by Martin and Bond,

put on track,

got a direction,

centred my passion,

still fought fear

and depression,

broke the umbilical cord.



Survived those four years

in one piece,

launched to the north,

a real pioneer this time

with a marriage under my belt

to help me make it through.



Lasted, what, nine months?

A mild schizo-affective state!

Patched up and sent out after six

for a final two-and-a-half year

stint by Lake Ontario.



Restored my batteries,

kept my marriage,

continued my career,

pioneered again,

a few hours from Toronto,

taught the Cause, thanks

to the Eastern Proc Team,

put Picton on the map.


Fifty years after His passing1

I was in Australia

and praying again

to light up Whyalla

and my life,

both exploded

into more success

than I could imagine.



Divorce and two years

in South Australia

led to Tasmania, Victoria,

the NT, WA and back to

Tasmania and a thousand

upon thousand events

taking me to 57,

the opening of the Arc Project

and the Terraces.



Always the fragrance

has been there,

but to follow its journey

as Wordsworth followed his

must wait until another day.



1 'Abdu'l-Bahá: 1921-1971



Ron Price

28 March 2001



7. THIS BOOK COMES FROM DIFFERENT SELVES

The longer I lived with the details of my life, and I lived with them in some written form for at least three decades(1984-2015), the more I realized that these isolated observations and experiences needed to be pulled together to gain any profundity, any solidity, any cohesion, any perspective, any overall pattern and meaning. And they needed to be pulled together quite differently than they had been the first time or the second in 1993 and 2003 respectively in the first two editions of my autobiography. On both these occasions I felt that something was missing, something important that I could not quite put my finger on but something that, if I did not find it, the whole structure of the narrative would simply lack a soul. Up to that point, I felt as if all I had really done, in some ways, was transfer dry bones from one graveyard to another, albeit with some order, some system and some reverence. Autobiography has been an evolving literary genre: historically, philosophically and in recent times, poetically. And it has evolved in my own approach over more than three decades. Now it seems, as Suzanne Nalbatian describes it in her analysis of autobiography, that this "book is a product of different selves" than the one which I manifested in my habits, in society and in my vices.

This is really not surprising given that the uniqueness of a place, a locality, a person, an idea, a life, a love, is constructed out of many particular interactions, articulations, social relations, social processes, experiences and understandings. A large proportion of those relations, experiences and understandings are actually constructed on a far larger scale than what we can define or describe at any given moment. The place, the idea or the relationship is built out of such a complex construction, such a large scale, and so many dimensions, which change so frequently with the years, that the entire concatenation of people, events and places often seems like a dream, a vapour, an illusion. This autobiography and this poetry tries to capture some of this vapour, this mirage in the desert, and turn it into flowing water and, if possible, fire and ice, as one writer once put his work.

8. MELANCHOLY'S ANTIDOTE

In 1601, four hundred years before the opening of the Arc Project, the Terraces on Mt. Carmel, William Shakespeare completed his composition, his most famous play, Hamlet. The phenomenon of the character of Hamlet is, as leading Shakespearian analyst Harold Bloom writes, "unsurpassed in the West's imaginative literature."1 Given the preeminent importance of the process of teaching to the growth and development of the Bahai community, in the following poem I have given my proto-typical teacher in the Bahai Faith during that teaching Plans beginning in 1937 the persona of Hamlet. I have drawn on Harold Bloom's study of Hamlet for much of the text of my poem. I have also made one crucial alteration or inclusion to this persona, the experience of "the most exquisite celebratory joy."2       -Ron Price with thanks to 1Harold Bloom, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, Penguin, NY, 1998, p.384; and 2The Universal House of Justice, Letter 3 April 1991.

Hamlet is so endlessly suggestive,

his ever-growing inner self

and his infinite consciousness,

often sees himself as a failure,

a failed, tragic protagonist,

an earlier self had died

and a new one born,

in a sea of constant change,

a graciousness in mourning,

the centre of a solemn consciousness

everywhere and tentativeness

the peculiar mark

of an endlessly burgeoning world,

so continuously alive,

a breaking wave of sensibility

pulsating onward.


His bewildering range of freedoms

we can see in ourselves

providing as they do

a will-to-identity

and his sinuous enchantment,

his global self-consciousness,

of two hundred years now.



He needs humanity

to give honour and meaning

to his life for we are not alone.

He lets everything be

and trusts in God

to balance, siphon,

the anxiety,

as he makes us see

the world in other ways.


He makes successful gestures

and so do we with our inwardness

in the theatre of the mind

in the inmost self,

our necessary disinterestedness

where the only enemy is self.

But for us there is joy,

melancholy's antidote.



Ron Price

14 May 2002



9. DYNAMIC SYNCHRONIZATION



By the early 1990s the Arc Project was making large holes in the side of Mt. Carmel. Evoking images of paradise, of the land of milk and honey, of the blessed isles, of the promised land, of the Elysian fields, among other pastoral surroundings associated with this holy place, in the minds of believers around the world, it was assuming a place of immense proportions in the mind's eye of the faithful. During this same period of time, in 1993, the Hubble Spacecraft was fixed in the heavens. As the Arc Project headed to completion in 2000 and 2001, Hubble sent back data that allowed astrophysicists to determine with some accuracy the age of the universe at 12 billion years. Some 40,000 galaxies could be observed in the sky behind a curvature the size of a grain of sand and there was a vast increase in the knowledge of the origins of stars. The Sun and the Moon were also studied during the construction of the Arc Project telling us much more about these heavenly bodies. The Sun's polar regions were investigated during this period. Asteroids and comets were also examined in more detail than ever before. Mars and Saturn also came under the astronomers' microscopes. -Ron Price with thanks to The Internet: Planetary Science Spacecraft, 24 June 2002.



They1 said we stood on the threshold

of the last decade

of the radiant twentieth century.

The prospects were dazzling:

little did we know

we'd be able to go back

and see our origins

12 billion years ago.


Yes, there was an acceleration

of spiritual forces then

as May 1992 approached.

The suddenness, the speeding-up,

the transformational impact

on my poetic output,

the new feelings of delight

on the dry soil of my heart

and a certain bewilderment

which I have been trying

to understand since those

winter months when

it really began,2

made me slowly realize

that, at last, I could

not do everything

on this long, slippery

and tortuous path

as that dynamic synchronization

at last approached.



1 The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message 1990.

2 In the winter months of June to August 1992 I wrote 35 poems, the precursors to an immense poetic unfolding of about 600 poems each year for the next ten years: 1992-2002.

-Ron Price 27 June 2002



10. MEDITATION ON BAHA'I WORLD CENTRE



It could be argued and I often do that the first visual evidences of this new democratic theocracy that is the Bahai Faith are situated in the buildings, terraces and gardens on Mt. Carmel. Of course structures of various kinds go back to the turn of the twentieth century, indeed, the years after the passing of Bahaullahn 1892. Just as the early seventeenth century in Holland and the works of painters like Rembrandt witnessed "the first visual evidence of bourgeois democracy" and "a group of individuals (came) together and (took) corporate responsibility," so too is this the case with the Bahai community around the world.

...............my voice proclaims
How exquisitely the individual Mind
...............to the external World
Is fitted.
   -"The Recluse", William Wordsworth: Selected Poems, Walford Davies, editor, Dent, 1975, p.132.

Here I behold a mind that

feeds upon infinity, a mind

sustained by direct transcendent

power and holds converse with

a spiritual world of past, present

and to come: epoch to epoch,

past recorded time.



Here I see days gone by

returning from those first

glimmerings at the dawn of this Age,

enshrined now: the spirit of the Past

for our future's restoration.

The characters are, now, fresh and visible

in this spot of time with its distinct pre-eminence

and its renovating virtue whereby

our minds are nourished and

invisibly repaired.



Here are those efficacious spirits

who have profoundest knowledge

of leavening of being and

of the workings of One Mind,

the character of this Great Apocalypse

and the types and symbols of eternity,

gathered, as they are, among solitudes sublime.



Here we find our better selves,

from whom we have been long departed,

and assume a character of quiet

more profound than so many of

the pathless wastes where we have

long walked, too long, its roads.



Here, too, I hear at last my song which

with its star-like virtue shines to

shed benignant influence,

make a better time,

more wise desires and

simpler and humbler manners.

Perhaps some trace of purity may

come with me and guide and cheer me

with Thy unfailing love

which I forget.



Ron Price

19 June 1995



And so I refer frequently to my poetry to explain my personal life and I refer to my personal life to explain my poetry. This is a common technique among poets. Somehow when a writer writes, and this is no less true when writing autobiography, he must lift up to his imagination those things which lie under the direct scrutiny of the senses, close to the nose. This is what gives his writing, his craft, his life, the kind of breath which is not artificial, not dry, but savoured with an intensity, a spontaneity, a creativity that in some strange way purifies, improves and filters thought. It takes autobiography from where it has been for so many years, in what Allen Shapiro calls "the dark continent of literature," and gives it new light, if not for many of the readers, at least for some of the writers.



11. DISTINCTIVE VOICE



Distinctive voice is inseparable from distinctive substance...we will feel, as we read, a sense that the poet was not wed to any one outcome....the reader is freely invited to recreate in his own mind....the true has about it an air of mystery or inexplicability ........the subject of a serious poet must be a life with a leaning, life with a tendency to shape itself... -Louise Gluck, "Against Sincerity", Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry, Ecco Press, Hopewell, N.J., 1994.



Every atom in existence is distinctive

especially these Hanging Gardens:

we've got distinctive substance here

and some of us have been waiting

a long time-try forty years-for this

apotheosis of the Ancient of Days

in a holy seat, at last a genuinely

holy seat in a world of seats, seemingly

endless seats: the light of the countenance

of God, the Ruler of the Kingdom of Names

and Fashioner of the heavens hath been

lifted upon thee.*



Here is a world where affliction is married

to ecstasy, suffering defined with virtuosity,

colour mounts on colour, temperatures mix

and pure gold comes from the alchemist,

pure fire, pure spiritual energy so that:

my pages stain with apple-green;

my letters are written in chrysolite;

words find marble, gates and shrines

embedded in diamonds and amethyst.

What is this molton gold, ink burnt

grey, revelation writing? ....cheering

thine eyes and those of all creation,

and filling with delight all things

visible and invisible.* Yes and no,

always, it seems, yes and no.

Conflagrant worlds interacting:

the myth is tragic here. A grandeur

that is magnetic, but even here,

the meaning must be found.



Can you see the scars, the evidence:

there's been emotion here to the

essence of our hearts. I try to name,

localize, master, define that scar,

but it is beyond my pen, beyond the

poignant inadequacy of my strategems.

No response of mine goes deep enough.

This poetry of functional simplicity

will never reach Zion, the City of God,

but I will try: May my life be a sacrifice

to Thee, inasmuch as Thou hast

fixed Thy gaze upon me,

hast bestowed upon me Thy bounty,

and hast directed toward me Thy steps.*

14/10/95.

* Tablet of Carmel



12. EMBALMED



Here are the early stages of a civilization that will create and experience beauty, that will rise above the cacophony in which the world now seems to be drowning. As T. S. Eliot looks back to the Greeks, the Renaissance, the creative peaks of the past, R.F. Price looks ahead with a vision implicit in the architectural configurations on Mt Carmel. Ron Price in appreciation to Alan Shucard, Fred Moramarco and William Sullivan, Modern American Poetry, G.K. Hall and Co., Boston, 1989, p.101.



Perhaps ‘the modern' could go back

to Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase(1912),

the symbol of the international exhibit of art

in New York, the root of the manifestation

of ‘the modern' in America(1913)

and ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's 239 days in the West.



The big guns had come and changed the world:

Darwin, Marx, Freud, Einstein and

the broidered Robe of Light

hearing the wondrous accent of the Voice

that cometh from the Inaccessible

to our urban, industrial, democratic,

fragmented, scientific jungle

of motion, speed, urbanity, machinery

and billions of human beings.


Here was the nest of the modern in poetry,

where intellectual and emotional complexes

were presented in an instant in time:

containers for ideas and feelings,

poetic sensuousness, hard and clear,

a firey intensity, prose poems,

awakening, invigorating, confusing,

some Hellenic turning,

some nature turning,

some turning, twisting, revolving,

evolving trying to describe our world:

bewildered, agonized, helpless,

invading by some wind

into the remotest and fairest places

and wasting as it germinated.


Poetry created aesthetic objects

out of words, reassembling language,

detached and leading anywhere, everywhere:

hymns to possibility, not just gibberish,

idiosyncratic flux, slangy informality,

surprising peculiarity of things.



Eliot advised writers to develop

an historical sense, back into the entire

western intellectual tradition,

my relation to the dead and the unborn:

to escape from the subjective into system, order.



And so I did TS, so I did, a system just being born

back then: 1912, 1919, 1922--goodness, you were

right there, then, at the start with J. Alfred Prufrock:



Let us go then, you and I

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherised upon a table;

Let us go..(*).



That meaninglessness was being replaced,

paralysis, confusion, social falsity, anxiety

and we see the mermaids singing each to each.

...I have seen them riding seaward on the waves

Combing the white hair of the waves blown back

When the wind blows the water white and black.



We have lingered in the chambers of the sea

By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

Till human voices wake us and we drown.(*)


And we drown, dreaming figures, as in a dance.

Silently adoring, embalmed in awe

and pentilekon marble, released to marvel

the magic Dust that noone ever sees.



Ron Price

23 June 1995



(*) TS Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", in TS Eliot: Selected Poems, Faber and Faber, London, 1954, pp.11-16.


There will be, I am inclined to think, many who will read this work and find it not to their taste. And I am reminded of what one writer said of T.S. Eliot and his poem The Wasteland, perhaps the most famous poem of the twentieth century. That poem, The Wasteland, he wrote "was only the relief of a personal and wholly insignificant grouse against life." What a reader gets from a work is quite an idiosyncratic reality. It is something I have little control over once I have let loose this work. In the end a writer must please himself. Gibbon became an autobiographer for the same reason he became an historian: to see a pattern, a plan in what might appear from a distance to be a welter of haphazard, chaotic or contradictory experience. I have done the same. I do not expect my readers to see the same pattern.



13. DISTANT GARDENS



The second century(1944-2044) is destined to witness...the first stirrings of that World Order, of which the present Administrative System is at once the precursor, the nuc- leus and pattern-an Order which, as it slowly crystallizes and radiates its benign influ- ence...will proclaim the coming of age of the whole human race.-Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, pp.72-73.



The Parthenon, or whatever, is universal because it can continuously inspire new personal realizations in experience. It is simply as impossibility that any one today should experience the Parthenon as the devout Athenian contemporary citizen exper- ienced it...The enduring art-product...was called forth by something occasional, something having its own date and place. But what was evoked is a substance so formed that it can enter into the experience of others and enable them to have more intense and more fully rounded out experiences of their own. -John Dewey, Art as Experience, Capricorn Books, NY, 1958(1934), p. 109.



And so it is universal

and will go on being so

down the halls of time,

enriching and intensifying

the experience of those

who are willing to share in its beauty,

to experience it as something new,

something mine,

to which I give the meaning,

reordering colour and shape

in relation to myself,

to experience delight and overcome

the inchoate, restricted, apathetic, tepid,

fearful, conventional, routine

through some expansion, intensification,

fullness: ordering matter through form,

on this journey to these far places,

these distant gardens.



Ron Price

23 December 1995



14. GUITAR + SHOCKS = POETRY



"Where formerly he could be moved to song, he can do nothing now, he must dig down deeper. One would say that the shock of suffering and vision breaks down, one after another, the living sensitive partitions behind which his identity is hiding. He is harassed, he is tracked down, he is destroyed...He dies and is reborn in and with poetry.....He discovers an essentially free, objectless, creativity in poetry. With each poem, the poet creates a world and savours it." Such are Maritain's words and they have a certain resonance with my own thoughts, except I still can sing and do, although not often. -Jacques Maritain, Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry, New American Library, NY, 1953, pp.130-177.



I was soaked in music in the ‘60s

and like a wandering minstrel

for twenty-five years

I took that ubiquitous guitar,

moved to sing, to song,

the pioneer singer.


But the shocks kept coming;

the fires died.

There was nothing left to sing,

except dry bones deep down

on the edges of my tongue,

somewhere in my heart.



In my brain a new music did I find,

a certain verbal sound

filled with thought and meaning

deep in the womb,

of some poetic intuition

with tact, subtlety,

to express the inexpressible

in common speech, human voice:

close to my heart,

defining what my thoughts are like,

conferring nobility on words.



Still did I sing old songs

for old folks,

last notes dredged-up

for occasions

to try to bring a little joy

to withered faces,

last breaths before death

carried them away.1



1 So it was that once a month I joined a small choir of 4 to 8 people who sang at Ainsley House for senior citizens here in George Town.


Ron Price

22 December 1995/

25 April 2003.



15. SINGALONGS AND MY TWO-2 RING BINDERS: 1949 TO 2009



Part 1:

This 2000 word essay explores the story of the gradual evolution of the singalong booklets in my life: 1949 to 2009. The first booklets of music in my life, at least those I remember, go back to 1949 when I was five years old. The first booklet of music, though, that I put together myself in order to run singalongs was in the late 1960s, in 1968 when I was twenty-four. From about 1949 to about 1969, then, I ran along on the singalong booklets of others: my parents', my friends' and, of course by the decade 1959 to 1969, TV's many-idiomed and formatted aural-texts. During the period of some 60 years, then, from 1949 to 2009 I have been involved in singalongs in one form or another.



In the last ten years though, 1999 to 2009, singalongs using booklets of songs I created took place for the most part at an aged care facility, an Australian government-funded aged care home, called the Ainslie House. This collection of buildings is located beside the Tamar River, an estuary, that runs beside George Town and Low Head in Tasmania. The residents of this home in this the oldest town in Australia, live in a modern and attractive facility about one kilometre from the Bass Strait, an extension of the Great Southern Ocean at the other end of the world from were I was born and grew to maturity in Canada.



I have been in at least two dozen aged care buildings in my life. These places where home means living with many new people under one roof, getting used to other people doing some of the everyday things you might have previously done for yourself and by yourself as well as working out new balances between one's need for privacy and the inevitable community nature of such a life are now an increasingly burgeoning presence across our civilization as war-babies like myself and baby-boomers all come into their late adolescence(60 to 80) incrementally year after year. Any child born in the first year of WW2 in 1939 will be seventy in 2009.



As a lecturer in aged care studies, programs in which I finished my teaching career in an Australian technical and further education college dealing with students studying aged care and other specialist training programs in various human services certificate and diploma courses, I became as I had so often before become "an instant expert." I am now an expert in more and more subjects and know less and less, or so it seems, as the years go on.

Part 2:

A range of different levels of care as well as specialist services are available here in these buildings by the sea under one management and organizational structure: high and low level care, short and long term care, independent unit and shared accommodation, transition as well as particular and multi-service care are all available under one roof. Care and services such as: respite care, care for particular cultural needs and health conditions, care for end-of-life clients, for war veterans, for the socially and financially disadvantaged, for the mentally ill and for people living in rural or remote areas.



To a lesser extent I also led singalongs in the decade 1999 to 2009 in the Bahá'í community I had, by then, been associated with for six decades. My final singalongs in classrooms took place as my teaching in FT, PT and volunteer teaching wound down in that same decade. These singalongs became rare events in my last years in Perth Western Australia in large Bahá'í communities and the smaller ones in northern Tasmania where I lived after 1999 and in the several classrooms where I taught. In the decade that I lived in Tasmania, 1999 to 2009, guitar-playing and singalongs slipped to the periphery of my life with one main bastion of activity—with the old and dieing.



In some ways it was fitting that the last few years of the singalongs in my life, 2002-2009, involved mostly senior citizens, the aged, old people, those in the last decade of late adulthood(70 to 80) and old age(80++)--here in George Town, Australia's oldest town. I used large-print songbooks published in the UK with a small singing group, choir was not quite the right word, until 2005. I say "fitting" because the content of these booklets was mainly for the two generations born before WW2--in the first four decades of the twentieth century—the earliest years in Canada and Australia of the activity of the Bahá'í community, the religious community I have been associated with for more than 50 years.



Part 3:

In 2009, though, the material in my two volumes, my two 2-ring binders, that I used for singalongs was for all age groups. There are very few songs that originated in the period, the two generations that were born in the years from 1970 to 2010, circa. The group born in the years after about 1970 will find few songs that were popular from their years of listening experience in these two binders. I did not listen to the music of those two generations. For the music of some two generations(1970 to 1990 and 1990 to 2010), of a great mass of popular music; for example, the songs of groups like Abba, among a host of others, I never bought the sheet music nor did I learn how to play the songs in some personally inventive way by figuring out the chords. So it was that by 2009 I did not know the songs of those under forty well enough to sing them in groups informally in the Bahá'í community or in any other communities of which I was a part as a teacher in primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions, as an adult educator, as a quasi-entertainer or one of a number of other roles I have had during those years.



These resources here in these booklets, these files, this collection, are here for singalongs in the groups I am involved with as I head into the last six months of the early years(60 to 65) of late adulthood(60 to 80) the middle years(65 to 75) of late adulthood and the last years of that stage(75 to 80) and finally, old age(80++), if I last that long. I have multiple copies of what I have come to call the music of other interest groups--for those not familiar with the Bahá'í musical experience, booklets of songs I put together for students in classrooms where I used to teach as well as other groups. I have many editions of song books in multiple copy form that I made for Bahá'í groups, as I say, as far back as the late 1980s. Songbooks from the previous two decades, the years 1969 to 1989, and the two decades before that, 1949 to 1969, have all been lost, thrown away or disappeared into the sands of time, the time that has been my life, as it has slipped irretrievably from my grasp.



These musical experiences called singalongs have returned to my life now here in George Town in the last six months. In July 2008 I put together a package/booklet of 75 songs as requested by the local aged care centre. Who knows when and who knows where and how these singalongs will develop in these years of late adulthood.       My wife and son became a little tired of hearing the same old stuff back in the 1980s and 1990s for I am not a particularly talented guitarist and it is understandable that they have got tired of hearing all these old songs, this repertoire of mine. Singing in groups seemed to become passe, perhaps even to become seen as declasse or lower in social status/standing in the wider society or at least many sectors of the wider society that I came to live and have my being in by the 1990s and 2000s.

Part 4:

This form of self-entertainment and group entertainment that does not rely on the electronic media, though, is far from dead, though, and I feel it will be part of my life in these years before my demise, my passing from this mortal coil. In some ways it has been fitting that most of the singalongs I have been part of in the last ten years, 1999 to 2009, have involved residents of a home for those in aged care, for people on their last legs. I often thought that American writer William Faulkner's spirit may have been present in those sing alongs. I often thought, too, as I led these old folks in song that the spirit Faulkner had when he wrote his now famous book "As I Lay Dieing" may just be at the back of the leisure-social-room where we had our singalongs; perhaps this great writer, this winner of a Nobel prize in literature, hangs around the ceiling or occupied another place in these rooms and outside which the poet-historian Arnold Toynbee says peopled our lives, these unseen, unknown, unobserved souls, millions upon billions of souls at just one remove, one step, beyond our senses in a land of lights never to return to this earth, its beauties and its uglinesses, its bitter-sweetnesses and its joys.

These people who now singalong once each month all lay, sat up or palely loitered about, dieing slowly. Each month that I went back to this old folks home during these latter years of these singalongs someone else had died, sometimes two or three had died or had moved to the very edge of their final hour. Some sat in some state of increased decrepitude to that state I had observed in my previous visit and some looked brighter and more alert. Sometimes I was brighter and more alert. The term ‘old folks home' was what we used to call these places for the old and dieing when I was a kid. And of course it was just that, a home, their last. It was their home, their last home on this earthly plane.

Slowly I got to know many of the names of these souls, got to know their life stories, their particular ailments in great detail—as old people are want to tell you to the nth degree of finitude. I also got to know a little of their philosophies and their religious proclivities.



The resources in my personally prepared, tenderly fostered, oft-used-and-repeated booklets of singing material that are here in my files, my collections are getting a new lease on life. They had often been kept, in this last decade, tightly sealed with a big rubber-band around them, in keeping for a future time when singalongs would once again return to my life and to the groups I was involved with in these years of my late adulthood and what would become, finally, old age. Now the rubber bands are off the its action-stations for singalongs once again.

Part 5:

Old age begins, say some human development psychologists, at the age of 80. I've come to like that model since the 1990s when I was a teacher of a course on human development. This model gives me now as it has given me in the last decade many more years before the onset of old age. As things stand now in 2009, I have another 15 years before I'm actually, officially, or shall I say psychologically, in theory at least, de facto, old. And I have plenty of years left for singalongs. Perhaps they may still be in my life in the 2040s, the decade when I become a centenarian. We shall see what those mysterious dispensations of a Watchful Providence provide in this the evening of my life as nightfall gradually approaches and "I go into a hole for those who speak no more," as the Báb once wrote it graphically and literally in His voluminous writings back in the 1840s.



Ron Price

23 July 2009

16. UNSURPASSED HOLINESS



Ours is the duty.....to play our part, however small, in this greatest drama of the world's spiritual history. -Shoghi Effendi, 21 March 1930, in The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, USA, 1974, p.26.



Even when all these marble edifaces

with their inaccessible mysteries,

their attendant gardens are complete

we are still faced with ordinary dust.

The domestic orange trees

will still be as unendearing as ever,

contented perhaps in their green universe,

having been taught submission

(you can tell by their roundness).

The geraniums will still be

as pedestrian and obtuse as ever.



The only thing you've got here, mate,

is what you have lavishly invested

with your aspiration and belief.

You can grow weary of nightingales

and peacocks, the uselessness of words,

the fruitlessness of speculation.

You'll find here among the frail petals

no formula for perfection.

The disinterested cypresses,

even though they point heavenward,

will offer no certain answer to your questions.



The jasmine may captivate your senses

and paralyse your will,

but the sense of urgency will not leave you

nor this place for some time;

for the hour is perilous and dark

and the rush of history is moving

toward the climax of a spiritual drama

of staggering magnitude

which so few are yet aware: be warned!



Just resume your ordinary life

with its deadlines and schedules.

The taxi will soon speed you

to your destination.

The airport can sell you a postcard

of the place which will soon be the stage

for the enactment of several critical acts

in a play of unsurpassed holiness.

Have a safe trip home.



Ron Price

28 December 1995



17. I CAN SEE YOU NOW



I have found it difficult in the last several years to get my mind off the Arc that is being built on Mt Carmel. It fills me with profound pleasure and ardent expectations.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 23 December 1995.



For if we look back at one hundred years of an unexampled history of unremitting progress, we also look forward to many centuries of unfolding fulfillment of divine purpose...incrementally realized.... -Universal House of Justice, Ridvan, 1992, p.1.



I can see you now: close and distant,

near and far, with pregnant and tragic import,

loosening and tightening,

expanding and contracting,

separating and compacting,

soaring and drooping,

rising and falling,

dispersive and scattering,

hovering and brooding,

unsubstantial lightness,

massive blow--

such is the stuff you are made of,

up on that hill, over there,

infinitely diversified,

but I can express you here:

the significant, the relevant,

compressed and intensified

in some exalted rising, surging

and retreating, the sudden thrust,

the gradual insinuation

until I am obsessed with your wonder

and can hardly take my mind off of you:

the enduring, the voluminous, the solid,

room, filling, power, energy of position

and motion, rightness in placing.



And so I am in poised readiness

to meet your surrounding forces,

to persist, to endure with some energy

and some opportunity for action

with my unique experience,

gradually letting you yield to me

in the changing light and moods,

your enduring sacredness

and charm and your monumental

register of cherished expectations.



Ron Price

23 December 1995



18. A SWEET NEW LIFE



"People entering Gothic cathedrals left behind their life of material cares and seemed to pass into a different world," writes Kenneth Clark as he makes his feelings of the arts contagious in his book Civilization. In other ages buildings were constructed simply to give pleasure. Twentieth century wars have destroyed many of these buildings in a fit of modern barbarism. As this was taking place, as this barbarism was hacking into the evidences of civilization humans had erected over many centuries, a small and embryonic community that followed the teachings of its prophet-founders, the Bab and Bahaullah began to erect new symbols of a new civilization.-Ron Price with thanks to Kenneth Clark, Civilization, Pelican Books, 1969, p. 167.



It was an age of minarettes

that staggered the imagination,

built high into the sky,

immense heaps of stone

and glass and aluminium.



It was also the end

of the Heroic Age

and the start

of the Formative Age

and they used this social art,

architecture,

to help us lead fuller lives,

to touch life at many points,

to give us that douceur de vivre,

that sweetness of life

at places all over the world.



Ron Price

29 May 2003



19. SOME THOUGHTS

Section 1:

If Evelyn Waugh is right when he says that "nobody wants to read other people's reflections on life and religion, but the routines of their day, properly recorded are always interesting," then this book has little hope to ever see the light of day. Perhaps, following Waugh or a writer like Thomas Mann, I should really make that diary with all its confessionalism the focus of this and future writing. As this work has come to see the light of day at sites like the Bahai Academics Resource Library, bahai-library.com website in August 2003 and the website: bahaindex.com in November 2003 and the Bahá'í World Centre Library, among several other sites like lulu.com and eBookMall where hard cover and electronic copies can be purchased, I tend to think that there is little hope that it will find a wide appeal, a high degree of popularity. Such is life! At the very least writing this work has offered, like knitting, a therapeutic relaxation for me, but for others well....who knows?



Shaping one's life, Virginia Woolf writes, involves shaping something that in many ways has no shape at all. I seem to have a need to recall things that have gone too far, gone too deep, sunk into this life or someone else's and become part of mine. I seem to have a need to recall dreams, things surrounding me, half-articulate ghosts who keep up their hauntings by day and by night, shadows of people one might have been, unborn selves. That would be an interesting autobiography, interesting at least to me: the story of someone I might have been. Sadly, joyfully, inevitably, I must settle for this story of the person I have been.



This narrative is partly an experiment with a means, a way, of defining my experience of a religious and cultural heritage, a heritage which has been bound up with the Bahá'í Faith for over fifty years. Through this writing, this autobiography, this literary production, I attempt to turn my small part in what may very well become one of the world's most significant but, as yet, quite obscure diasporas—in which several hundred thousand people in the last 160 years have moved their home, their place of residence voluntarily or through some unavoidable force of circumstance, for a religious motive, for a religion, a new world Faith--into an act of personal memory, part of an institution of cultural memory. This narrative records my confrontation with both a native and a host culture, a Bahá'í and a non-Bahá'í culture, a confrontation that has been part of a total, a life, experience since 1953.



Section 2:

We all resist conformity on principle, in varying degrees; but we indulge in it in practice. One can call this practice socialization, conformity or, indeed, one of many other terms. Despite expressions of horror about "mass man" during the Red Scare 1950s when I was in my late childhood and teens, for instance, North Americans were already growing increasingly homogenous in behavior and taste. Max Lerner in his 1957 book America as a Civilization caricatured North Americans as robots "performing routinized operations at regular intervals." He went on to say that: "They take time out for standardized coffee breaks and later a quick standardized lunch, come home at night to eat processed or canned food. They read syndicated columns and comic strips; they dress in standardized clothes and attend standardized club meetings. They are drafted into standardized armies and, if they escape the death of mechanized warfare, they die of highly uniform diseases and are buried in standardized graves.(p. 261)



What I have tried to do here is to understand this pioneer condition inspite of the inevitable standardizations of life; I accept its many dimensions and try to explain it to others who have enough interest to read this work. I resort in these pages to an act of narration as an expression of the hybrid nature of this global phenomenon, a phenomenon of voluntary or not-so-voluntary migration, migration that has taken place both in my Canadian homeland and overseas, internationally. It is also a phenomenon which in its individual details is usually documented in a very a cursory manner or is often never written about at all and is simply forgotten by history and public memory.


The monument of this new, this as yet obscure, pioneer history is not the fair farm land and the human habitation and settlement as it was in previous centuries. The new archives are not the words and lines on mouldering stone head-boards above a humble grave. These new archives do not belong to an emigrant and the partner of his exile sustained through their lowly but heroic struggle with the wintry or hot and sultry wilderness by mutual affection. The new archives are not old barns now fallen apart from disuse or long fences now seemingly as ancient as the hills. I would like to say a few words here about the new archives I have become associated with as a pioneer of an embryonic institutional environment.



Over the last three-quarters of a century, since the time my parents first met at the Otis Elevator Company in the late 1930s, an explosion of archival material has erupted in this Bahá'í world for the would-be historian of the future. With each passing year the eruption, the explosion, becomes increasingly difficult to deal with, overflowing as it does the bounds of our capacity or our interest in these early decades of the institutonal environment with which it is associated to cope with its effusions. When this great mountain of material is classified and the student begins to focus on the archival body relevant to his own interests and needs, some proportion and framework will emerge from the chaos and prolixity of it all. The historian and social analyst must tease both sense and nonsense from all the loose ends, fragments, contradictions and observations, eruptions and explosions that are found in these archives. Indeed, the present generation is hardly able to deal with this eruption, nor have any of the generations which have created this mountain of paper-archive-even begun to examine it with any seriousness, occupied as they are with creating and developing the institutional matrix that this great archival body clothes with its often hidden meaning.



Section 3:

The student of the emerging world Order of Bahá'u'lláh has seen or will see, if he desires to make a serious study of this world-embracing mountain of paper, in the thousands of archives emerging in local Bahá'í communities around the world especially in the last half century, since the beginning of the Kingdom of God on earth in 1953, the beginning of that ninth stage of history as the Guardian called the Ten Year Crusade, the still early stages in the evolution of what the future will come to see as the nucleus and pattern of the new World Order.


"Archives offer our knowledge an extra bonus", says Arlette Farge in her book Fragile Lives. They are not so much the truth as the beginnings of the truth and, she goes on, "they are an eruption of meanings with the greatest possible number of connections with reality." For most of the Bahá'í community at the local level in these epochs, archives are just so much paper in old boxes. Sometimes there exists an obsessive tendency to admit too much meaning to these archives when much of their contents is irrelevant circularized correspondence that could easily be discarded without any loss. But there are innumerable rare gems to be often found amidst the detritus and the irrelevant material. The historian must and will learn to see the forrest amidst the mass of trees.



History and its documents are made up of so many different lives: impoverished and tragic, rich and joyful, mean and lackluster personalities, saints and heros. There is also a certain grandeur, humour, absurdity and irony to the parade and its varying semblances reflected in these documents gathering dust in rooms and garages, attics and now computer directories all across the planet. Archives are both seductress and deceptive mirror of reality. They can falsify and distort the object being studied. They can also be too facile or too ambiguous a means of entering into a discourse with history. They can tell very little of the real events of Bahá'í community life. They can often be just a pile of dry bones transferred from one graveyard to another. But like the increasingly scientific tools of the archeologist, the skills of the archival historian can reveal much light. In the future--or so I believe—they will reveal much light.



History has long been enamoured with ‘the great man'. More recently it has taken up the cudgels of ‘the average man', ‘women', ‘the disabled', ‘the migrant', ‘the pioneer', and on and on goes the list, the litany, of the ordinarily ordinary and the humanly human personages of history. All of these prototypes can be found in the archives of local Bahá'í communities around the world. For anyone taking part in Bahá'í community life in the epochs that are the backdrop for this memoir, and especially as the millennium turned its corner just the other day so to speak, the typical reaction to archives, as I say, is a perception of them as just boxes of stuff kept in someone's house in that back room, attic or shed, among other places. There is a certain ennui, a certain world-weariness that is experienced by the very contemplation to these mini-mountains of correspondence. The weariness comes in part from the great mass of apparently irrelevant detail in those boxes and partly from a simple inability to get any meaningful perspective on the great historical adventure being engaged in by means of the contemplation of this great weight of paper and memorabilia.



Section 4:

"It is unfortunately true" says Moojan Momen in summarizing the history of memoir writing and archive collecting in the Bahá'í community, "that the Bahá'ís are lamentably neglectful." Perhaps in the last five decades, Moojan, they have turned a corner. Time and history will see, Moojan. Throughout history, it should be kept in mind, there has been a long and ambiguous relationship with archives. There have been successive tensions down the ages between boxes of documents known as archives and the actual writing of history. The earliest period in the history of western civilization for which we have a great deal of documentation, of archives, is the first century BC in Rome. For the great mass of humanity this archive is of no interest whatsoever. But for the professional ants who deal in Roman history this archive is crucial; it has helped to generate an explosion of archival enthusiasm amongst a coterie of students of Roman history in the last several decades. Side by side with this professional enthusiasm there prevails an atmosphere of anarchic confusion in the attitude of western man to his past.



We are talking, then, about an old problem: the meaning and relevance of archives. Just as the writing of the Roman poets in that first century BC represents an important part of that rich and ancient archive, so does this poetry of mine represent part(time will tell how important a part) of a modern archive of increasing relevance to both historian and social analyst. I see this poetry as an embellishment to a local archive, several archives where I have lived in Australia and Canada; a contribution to an international archive on pioneers, an archive still in the first century of creation, collection and development; and a small part of a burgeoning base of material the world over which is so extensive now as to virtually swallow the individual in a sea of printed matter were he or she to take a serious interest in the material.



"It is impossible to avoid the realm of aesthetics and emotion" in dealing with archives, says Arlette Farge in her introductory statement on the subject. In a broad sense the architectural remains of the fifth century BC or the Egyptian pyramids, are a repository of information, an archive. The realm of aesthetics and emotion is at the heart of these ancient architectural archives. Archives are also an eruption, Farge states; they can be an expression, she says simply, of whim, caprice and tragedy. And, like this poetry and the stuff in those boxes, they can and are so much more.



It is impossible to assess the relevance of what will one day be the architectural archive of the Bahai Faith, say, in two and a half thousand years. What will be the story told of these generations of the half-light in this first century of a Formative Age when a heterodox and seemingly negligible offshoot of an insignificant sect of Shi'i Islam finished its transformation into a world religion? What will they say of the architectural achievement that helped to give form and beauty to the institutionalized charismatic Force that was about to play a crucial role in the establishment of a global and peaceful civilization?



Section 5:

This autobiography takes half a century of personal accounts of events in the realm of memory and locates connecting points between ancestral, family, societal and religious history along linking lines in an attempt to create a unified whole, a synthesis in time and space. And so it is, that in the context of reproducing my history and my family's history, this autobiography is critically rewriting a new version, a variant, of the story of my community, my Bahá'í community. At the same time a dialogue is created both within and without the Bahá'í community, a dialogue about its memory, its contents and discontents. I have seen the dialogue begin and its future looks so very rich, part of the greatest drama in the world's religious history I have no doubt.



This writing could be said to exist as a text, as "literature engagée," which contributes in its own way to new didactic readings of Bahá'í history, its politics and sociology, its psychology and the poetry of its community, indeed, what it means to be a Bahá'í in the first century of the Formative Age. There are many layers of circumstantial memories in the Bahá'í community, a multiplicity of narratives, multiple voices, multiple interpretations of the same story. The ones that are written down—and there are myriad now in a host of books, journals and magazines—are for the most part short and sweet or not-so-sweet as the case may be; some are of medium length, a few pages, and they can be found in all sort of publications and a very few, like this one, are long-and hopefully sweet.



Partly, too, I have aimed to create but one expression, one means for the construction of history and culture, not an offical one, just a personal one, but one that is a shared process based on a collective effort, a shared process that excludes no one and involves anyone who has the interest and the desire to take part. It must be kept in mind in all of this, and as I have intimated before, that there is an impossibility of autobiography as the narrative of a unified self unless it be a unity in multiplicity. The narrator and the subject of narration are only the same person in a certain sense; the narrator's memory is only partly a reliable guide to the past. The person who writes about their past is at bottom only partly the person of the past. This autobiographical exercise has created an essential, original, coherent autobiographical self which, in many ways, simply did not exist before the moment, the years, of self-narrating. However coherent this autobiographical self is, it possesses fragmentary, subjective, unstable, constructed and mobile aspects as well. These aspects are less an intrusion than they are a constant. Whatever continuity we grasp, there is much in our life that is beyond grasping and even the continuities can be described in multiple versions with multiple perspectives making an "official" version virtually impossible.



Ernest Renan explains that what bonds peoples of a nation together is their shared ability to forget. I find that a comforting notion, even if paradoxical, especially as I head into my latter years, years characterized so much by forgetting. Perhaps this forgetting is a sign of things to come in that Undiscovered Country we all go to in the end, a place with both mysterious rememberings and forgettings.

20. A MIND LIVELY AND AT EASE



It is said that an artist's work is the sum total of his experience. The artist does not create from a tabula rasa, but from a rich menu of specific and unspecific experience, grey and vague but also highly and variously coloured. From all of this he maps his experience; this map-making could be said to be exactly the main topic of his life as an artist. The artist drafts his own destiny as he drafts his music, his art, his sculpture or his poetry, at least in part. And he is never sure, as Stephen Spender puts it, however confident he may be, whether he has misdirected his energy, or whether his poetry is insignificant and irrelevant or great and important. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 8 August 2000.



A mind lively and at ease

is a gift of fortune

and gives meaning and value

to perceived experience,1

to the deep and rich satisfaction

of my own writing and to the slow

charting of the progress toward our

destiny, our meaning and our fate.



The unperturbed mind is quickest

and can deal with the vanity of vanities:

life, which we must both accept and reject,

which pierces us with its nonsense and its

strange relations, its unending moments

until that last syllable of our recorded time.


1 Jane Austen, Emma.

Ron Price
8 August 2000

CHAPTER 10

ADDENDUM OR EPILOGUE

Part 1:

Having completed my autobiography or, at least, completed a seventh edition in a form that is satisfactory to me in the first two volumes and keeping in mind that I will in all likelihood make additions to it in the years ahead, I want to write a sort of addendum or epilogue in the pages which follow. I have divided this epilogue into 50 parts for the convenience of readers and a general aesthetic of presentation.

I write this epilogue in part because I need a network of intersecting tributaries of memory and speculation before returning to my main theme. I need to return to my main theme again & again as well. It is not so much that my record and my insights are unique or especially articulate. The world is overflowing with words from perceptive and very clever people. But my mind seems easily stirred and with the new medications of the last fifteen years(2001-2015) for my bipolar disorder I experience a certain tranquillity never before enjoyed.

This tranquillity is, I think, like that recollection in tranquillity that Wordsworth said allowed him to withdraw his thought and his life while witnessing its spectacle with the dominion of words, the incarnation of his thoughts. The essential passions of Wordsworth's heart—and mine---speak, hopefully, a plainer and more emphatic language. There is, too, a language which arises out of one's repeated experience and regular feelings which is, for me at least, a more permanent and philosophical language. My feelings seem at last to be more regular and easy and I can reflect on past feelings and absent things often as if they were present. This is not a special talent; indeed it is quite common, but it is very useful, essential, when writing one's memoirs.

This is not to say that I am 24/7 in the world of tranquillity for my bipolar disorder and its pharmacology still presents me with problems in the social world. If I did not have to deal with people except for short bursts of time, usually less than 2 hours, I would not have the problems I have. In saying this, though, my wife is not happy with me much of the time and it is my behaviour: immoderate, not thoughtful and thinking of her, etc etc. I usually am only able to write and work on literary tasks for an hour or two before taking a break with 6 to 8 hours a day being the total, and with 12 hours in bed daily.

I want to contribute this memoir to the world and I want audiences to read my work hoping, among other things, that readers will find a new or at least an altered perspective on their own lives. This is probably a somewhat pretentious aim, trying to stake out a fresh territory for readers, a territory that requires my voice, a voice that has similarities to others but is, in the end, uniquely mine. I feel I have done this to some extent in the first two volumes and I hope some readers find some of this uniqueness and enjoy it.

In the London Review of Books(Vol. 24 No. 19 · 3 October 2002)we read "The Age of EJH" by Perry Anderson. His words are a review of "Interesting Times: A 20th-Century Life" by Eric Hobsbawm(Allen Lane, 450 pages, 2002). Anderson begins: "What apter practitioners of autobiography than historians? Trained to examine the past with an impartial eye, alert to oddities of context and artifices of narrative, they would appear to be the ideal candidates for the difficult task of the self-description of a life." I have studied history, but would not claim to be a historian. There are aspects, though, of this autobiography that have an historian's pen. Anderson continues: "Yet strangely it is not they but philosophers who have excelled at the genre – indeed all but invented it.

Part 1.1:

In principle, autobiography is the most intimately particular of all forms of writing, philosophy the most abstract and impersonal. They should be oil and water. But it was Augustine and Rousseau who gave us the personal and sexual confession and Descartes who offered the first ‘history of my mind’: in modern times Mill and Nietzsche, Collingwood and Russell, Sartre and Quine, all left records of themselves more memorable than anything else written about them. The number of historians who have produced autobiographies of any distinction, on the other hand, is remarkably small. In the 19th century, the self-serving memoirs of Guizot and Tocqueville, rarely consulted today, are of interest mainly as testimonials of political evasion. Closer to hand, Marc Bloch’s post-mortem on 1940, with its mixture of personal report and general requisitory, is a poignant document, but too circumscribed for more than flashes of self-revelation. More recently, we have the eccentric cameos of Richard Cobb and causeries of A.J.P. Taylor, of which he said they were evidence that he had run out of historical subjects. In all, in the genre for which it seems so well designed, the craft of the historian has yielded perhaps only two classics – Gibbon’s graceful mirror at the end of the 18th century, and Henry Adams’s eerie Wunderkammer at the beginning of the 20th." Like history, I have spent years studying philosophy but would make no claim to be a philosopher.

"In this generally disappointing field," writes Anderson, "Eric Hobsbawm has entered the lists with a work he invites us to read as the ‘flip side’ of Age of Extremes, his great history of the 20th century: ‘not world history illustrated by the experiences of an individual, but world history shaping that experience’ – and the life-choices it offered him. Published at the age of 85, in its energy and trenchancy Interesting Times could have been written at 40. Its qualities are such, in fact, that it is almost impossible to read without being drawn back to his work as a historian, so many insights does it offer, casually or deliberately, about what he has achieved as a whole. We are dealing with a kind of fifth volume, in more personal register, of a continuous project. This one could be called simply ‘The Age of EJH’

I leave it to readers to finish off examining this piece by Anderson. After reading a review of Hobsbawm, I felt there was no way I would even want to attempt writing an autobiography as this eminent historian has done. I have neither the skills nor the interest.

Part 2:

The spiritual ideal underpinning my experience as conveyed in this memoir has captivated, converted and inspired my soul. It is one which I believe will capture many millions and billions of others in the decades and centuries ahead, irrespective of background and temperament. It was the experience of many, indeed nearly all with whom I came in contact during these epochs, to find themselves doubting whether this enterprize of the Bahá'ís could ever be brought to a successful issue. If they did not doubt, they took little interest; perhaps this was due to the fact that the Bahá'í communities and the individual lives of its members had acquired, had exemplified, only the first streaks of that promised Dawn. The impact of this new Faith and its several instruments were not yet even dimly imagined by the wider world.



The seductiveness of other systems of ideas and fallacious philosophies which tried to explain the whole machina mundi, which had captivated the intellect and the emotions of many a previous generation still lingered into the twentieth century and the epochs that were the time frame of my life like desiccated carcasses. These systems formed a part of the backdrop of my life from the 1940s to the first years of the new millennium: the pseudo-scientific system of Marxism which was in its last years as I was beginning to write this memoir in the 1980s; the purely pragmatic systems of capitalism and humanistic liberal democracy were rapidly losing their hold on the minds and consciences of those who once worshipped, often unknowingly, at their alters; the quite pathological systems of Nazism and Fascism were coming to an end in the first two years of my life and the several traditional religions of history had spawned a host of strange bedfellows wholly inadequate to the slough of despond that was descending on humanity in my time, in the lifetime of my parents and, arguably, my grandparents.



Some poets were aware of this rupture, this massive and intense discontinuity. T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden seemed to have been the only poets who pondered and lamented this significance, this tempest that was ripping the world to shreds; other poets sought substitutes, things that might suffice.



Part 3:

My approach to this work has many similarities to that taken by the historian and early biographer, Plutarch, who saw the events of his age in personal terms and the individual life in moral terms of progress or regress. Plutarch's boundless interest in the individual, his sense of the drama of men in great situations is mine. I hope I also possess Plutarch's wide tolerance, ripe experience and his ability for making greatness stand out in small actions. Alas it is difficult to assess oneself in terms of these qualities. However difficult it is and was to assess the quality of my work, especially from a reader's perspective, for me the present was gradually flooded with a light from the past and the past was flooded with a light from the present. It took some twenty years of writing(1984-2004) these memoirs, though, before this delightful experience began to occur in my mental and sensory emporium.



Autobiographical writing has been redefining the meaning of narrative in recent decades, as the explosion of memoirs by writers such as Frank McCourt, Mary Karr, Dave Eggers and Kathryn Harrison, among others, suggests. In the last 25 years, coincidentally since the time I began this narrative, many people with and without some degree of fame tried to write their memoirs. More than in previous quarter centuries, or so it has seemed to me after a cursory study of the literature. Fewer, of course, tried to publish their memoir. With the critical and commercial success in the United States of these memoirs more and more people have been encouraged to try their hand at this genre. Mine is but one.



The best specimen of an autobiography in Russian literature is often considered to be Alexander Herzen's My Past And Thoughts. Herzen, the father of Russian socialism, referred to his memoirs as ‘reminiscences.' He said in the preface to his work(1855), that anyone could write their story if (a) they had something to say and (b) the capacity to say it. The worst punishment for any author, he went on, was that their work should not be read. It may be that, inspite of my best intentions, inspite of my own perception of the quality of my work and the pleasure I take in reading it, my work may not engage the readers in the Bahá'í community as much as I'd like to see happen. I think engagement entails defining a common enterprise that newcomers and community veterans can pursue as they try to develop their interpersonal relationships, their teaching opportunities and their own lives. I think I do this quite well, at least I have tried; such is my personal perception of how successful I have been.



But as readers continue in their interacting trajectories in their communities and as they continue to shape their identities in relation to one another, they may not find this book that useful. Not all the roads in our life, paved as they are with good intentions, with sincerity, lead to the places we would like. And these are dark days in an age of transition, perhaps the darkest days in the history of civilizations. It is difficult for people, facing an immense challenge in trying to resolve the confusion regarding even the most fundamental issues of life, to even locate a context in which to discuss relevant and critical questions. These are times of tempest and I do not expect any spontaneous response of acclaim to this work.



Part 4:

The provincial motto of Quebec, the province next door to Ontario where I spent the first quarter-century of my life, is Je me souviens. This is a significant reminder of the importance of memory in securing the survival of cultural and individual identity. Without the memories of the past that make up cultural and intellectual continuity, there can be no fully comprehended present either for a collectivity or for an individual, and with no remembered past to define and direct the present there can be no planned or idealized future. Much of contemporary living is what you might call a present-participle existence: drinking, eating, sailing, having fun, et cetera, in a perpetual present that, even as it happens, is obsolete by design, becomes history. These memoirs are about integrating those present participle experiences with the past and future. These memoirs are also about integrating the past participle events of history and especially that part of history that is the history of this new Faith. And so I might put it poetically:



Many a bright remembrance o'er the fancy plays;

New classic dream, new star of my epochal days.

Not al in memory's store is shiny clear and new.

Slough of despond is always part, parcel of this view.



While engagement with this book may be positive in some ways, a lack of a certain literary and psychological mutuality in the course of the engagement of readers with these pages and these ideas may create relations of marginality and keep what I say as distant as some thesis that never reaches deeply into peoples' identities. In the end and at this early stage in the publishing trajectory that this work takes, I'm really not sure how successful I have been. The enterprise of assessing how truly engaging this work has been will have to wait for the judgement of time and circumstance. I must admit to my suspicions which may be mainly a function of age and the assumptions that time's occasionally cynical presence laces with skepticism.



Autobiography, unlike novels, does not keep its readers at a distance from the facts of its author's life. The sufferings and tribulations, the successes and wins of the autobiographer's life are much more immediately part of the reader's awareness than they are from a novel by the same person. The relationship between a memoir/autobiography and the reader is less mediated and more like a patient/doctor relationship. The writer is on the couch talking: the reader becomes the doctor, reading hopefully with passion and interest, listening as good doctors must, and at the same time putting the story through the mill, as any good doctor would, of his own consciousness, memory and experience. I have often wondered while I have been writing this book whether it will get any readers/doctors at all. The worst that can happen to a narrative, it is often said and as Herzen pointed out in his preface, is that it remains ‘responseless'.



I have taken a course that another skeptic, David Hume, the Scottish philosopher, took at a much younger age than I. Hume writes in his autobiography that at the age of 23 he "laid that plan of life" which he "steadily and successfully pursued." He goes on to say that he aimed "to maintain unimpaired" his independency and "to regard every object as contemptible," except the improvements of his talents in literature." His first literary efforts, he informs us, fell dead from the press. But, as he says, due to his naturally cheerful and sanguine temper, he very soon recovered from the blows of intellectual and social indifference which his work received. In spite of receiving no recognition he continued to prosecute "with great ardour" his studies.



Part 5:

I, too, would have liked at the age of 23 to pursue a literary life but, as I pointed out in earlier volumes, this did not eventuate for many reasons and I had to wait for more than three decades before I could find that fertility and give that concentration which Hume gave to intellectual and literary activity in the early years of his maturity. I, too, like Hume enjoyed a cheerful and sanguine temperament, at least between bouts of bipolar disorder and after the problems of a bi-polar disorder were assuaged if not eliminated from my life; and between the tests that inevitably come our way in life. By the age of 60 the fire of the tests seemed to become cooler, the heat was less intense, and, although problems still came my way as they seem to come our way in one form or another until our last days, I was ready to launch that literary career that I would have liked to do forty years before and that Hume did in the flower of his early life. Whether I would have the success that Hume enjoyed only time would tell. My continued skepticism was not encouraging, but as the early years of late adulthood insensibly progressed from year to year the energy I expended toward this goal did not desert me linked as it was to the advancement of that Cause I had been associated with now for well over half a century.



Hume took the view that there is no permanent "self" that continues over time. He dismissed standard accounts of causality and argued that our conceptions of cause/effect and relationships are grounded in habits of thinking, rather than in the perception of causal forces in the external world itself. I find this issue of such complexity that to dwell on it further here would lead to prolixity, but Hume's notion of self is one that writing this memoir has confirmed. I should add, in closing this inclusion and reference to Hume, that at the age of 23 I "laid that plan of life" which I "steadily and successfully pursued." I, too, aimed "to maintain unimpaired" my independency and my habit of seeing things with my own eyes. But I was aware of how difficult this examination of one's own life and ideas with a spirit of understanding based on one's own views and not the views of others was---even in my early adulthood. Unlike Hume, I did not "regard every object as contemptible" except when depressed.<



Part 6:

Seeing things through our own eyes and not the eyes of others is very difficult when we are to a considerable extent influenced so strongly and often unconsciously by the forces of socialization, consumerism and fate that surround us and enter the very core of our beings. Many of our ideas and memories are not in any meaningful way our own. Millions wander soporifically around the cities, towns and rural areas in a state of amnesia, forgetful of the events of their own life, an evident consequence of their absorption by the voices of consumer culture and the confused voices of socialization which struggle with fate's iron grip.



As I write this memoir I feel on the one hand that I am a chronicler and celebrator of the changes and chances in my life; and on the other I feel, as I make my disillusioned descent into the cherished and yet ironically chaotic landscape of my past, I am choosing to remember it in my mind's current eye. This current eye muses and recalls those far off years. And as I recall, I remember rather than see closely that these facts of my life are more like vapours in the desert, mirages, illusions that I call life, that I see as a sort of stability and facticity. But these so-called facts contain only the patina of reality.



My interest in memory makes me as sensitive as Marcel Proust to the particular power of the senses of smell and taste in the calling-up of remembrances: "Oh…the nose," Proust has a character exclaim in A Sister to Evangeline (1898), "how subtle and indestructible are its memories! They know the swiftest way to the sources of joy and tears." My interest in memory also makes me sensitive to how memory of hardships and difficulties encountered in one's past is often experienced with a nostalgic joy, as the Canadian poet Oliver Goldsmith writes in the following couplet:



What lively joy each honest bosom feels,

As o'er…past events his memory steals...



I like to see imagination as a process of expanding the self by transcending time and space and creating new images of the world and the self. Imagination, at least for me, has been something which involves locating one's sense of engagement in a broad, a universal, system and defining one's personal trajectory of meaning in terms of something that connects what one is doing far beyond oneself. I'd like to think this autobiography extends the meaning of artefacts, people and actions within the personal spheres of people's lives, at least the people who read this book. That is what I'd like to achieve but, as I pointed out above, I'm not so sure that I have succeeded in this respect. The sheer proliferation of the objects, diversions, and possibilities for life in modern society has made modern society, as Walter Lippmann pointed out after WW1 in his book The Phantom Public, "not visible to anybody, nor intelligible continuously and as a whole." Abundance has in some ways both blunted and accentuated the meaning of experience and the pleasure to be found in abundance itself. Society, the world, has become one great brontosaurissmus, some voracious shark, that people who are not used to the sea are trying to dissect and understand. There are elements within this whole that are unprecedented and therefore profoundly shocking and the effects, like those of the shark, are often paralysing and prostrating. Of course, there is much that is pleasurable: not all is shark-like.



Still, in spite of the abundance, the burgeoning multiplicities and singularities, of life and its fragmenting, confusing and blunting affects, there have been clear turning points in my life and they represent ways in which I have freed myself in my self-consciousness from my history, its banal qualities and its conventionality. These turning points have been steps toward what Jerome Bruner, one of the great students of autobiography in the late 20th century, calls "narratorial consciousness." My autobiography involves a description of these turning points not only in my construction of self but also my interpretation of the nature of my society and its culture.



Part 7:

In spite of these complexities and enigmas, the past, my past, has occurred. It has gone and can only be brought back again in thought by this autobiographer or by historians and social scientists working in very different media: in books, articles, documentaries, inter alia. The actual events, of course, can not be brought back. The past has gone, history is what historians make of it and autobiographers, too, when they go about their work. In Re-thinking History, Keith Jenkins describes history as "a discourse that is about, but categorically different from, the past." And so it is that my autobiography is categorically different from my past. And so it is that my autobiography is not simply a telling of a series of critical incidents. As the present becomes the past, it too slips into my autobiography little by little day by day.



Part 8:

I interpret my past experiences, then, by means of a composition process involving my life in the present. It is a life that has adapted to, resisted and sometimes reached beyond the master narratives of the many dominant cultural and social institutions that have affected my life. And these institutions possess many master narratives which are inevitably woven into my personal story and my lived experience with and within these institutions. Motherhood, social class, industrialism, capitalism, socialism, democracy, religion, socialization, social control and authority are but a few of these institutions. Each of these institutions and many others have their own story and to write that story in a comprehensive and systematic way would lead to prolixity and such stories are beyond the compass of this narrative. This concept of "institution" associated with the above terms is part of the language of the field of sociology, a language, a discipline, I first came in contact with in 1963 and which has been part of my study and teaching program for over 40 years.



I could take each of these master narratives and focus or skew my autobiography as Jean Piaget did his series of autobiographies.       In his study of Jean Piaget's life, Vonïche deals with the particularly interesting case of Piaget's multiple autobiographical identities. Jean Piaget, the famous Swiss psychologist, wrote several autobiographies aimed at different audiences, thus presenting himself in different ways and on different scenes. In all of his autobiographies, Piaget is both the same and different. The facts are the same. The anecdotes are similar. But the outcome is entirely different. People use their autobiographies as a form of self-presentation that varies according to the target audience. They organize and re-organize the plots of their lives. According to the target audience, Piaget can be a post-Bergsonian metaphysician, a scientific psychologist, or a disillusioned philosopher turned scientist. And so is this target-oriented approach to autobiography an approach I use as well and perhaps at a future time I may develop it more fully. For now these 2500 pages in four volumes will have to suffice in all their heterogeneity and what many readers may find to be a blooming and buzzing confusion.



I have tried to avoid the telling of such a series of incidents, like vignettes, that concentrate upon episodes and especially those which identify specific life activities and practices. A real danger in this critical incident approach is that, if uncritically used, critical incidents and their respective literary accounts come to have a great and compelling explanatory power. This explanatory power exerts a conservative force on the overall narrative which cannot be underestimated. I like to think I have used critical incidents critically, conscious of their explanatory power, their affect on the overall narrative and, thus, placed them in this narrative in a balanced and judicious way.



I like to think I have done what Goodson advises autobiographers to do; namely, "to move from life stories to life histories, from narratives to genealogies of context, towards a modality that embraces stories of action within theories of context." "In so doing," Goodson suggests, "stories can be ‘located', seen as the social constructions they are, fully impregnated by their location within power structures and social milieux." For life is not all stories, not all a narrative.



As the distinguished historian E.H. Carr put it: "facts of the past exist independently of the mind of the historian, but historical facts are only those data selected from the past that a historian finds relevant to his or her argument. The historian can never know the past "as it really was," but only how it might have been, since our information about the past is partial and inevitably mediated." It seems to me this is true, a fortiori, of the autobiographer and the memoirist. Neither I nor the historian enjoys the scientist's luxury of being able to conduct and replicate experiments about the past, my past, under controlled conditions. I can test one theory about my life against another theory, as can the historian about some aspect of history. This allows me as autobiographer, and historians as story-tellers, to develop theories that are more viable. But we can never establish the truthfulness, the validity, of that theory. History and autobiography are both attempts to explain our experience of the present by constructing a viable account of the past such that if it had taken place then the present we live in would be the case. History is not only an attempt to account for the way things were, but also to account for the way things are. George Landow writes: "at that point in human history when choices become so abundant, autobiography, the justification of one's choices, becomes increasingly important as a literary mode." There is certainly much of this justification of my choices here.



Part 9:

Artists and writers, critics and thinkers, indeed, the entire intellectual apparatus of society of which this work is but an infinitessimal part is based on, finds its raison d'etre in, a vision of social agency and of creative process. If the term intellectual is a little too pretentious I am happy to use the term thinker. After living in Australia for 35 years I am not happy with the term 'intellectual'. As broadcaster Robert Dessaix discovered when he conducted interviews for a book and radio program on the topic, Australian intellectuals are wary of being called intellectuals. Unlike their French counterparts, "Any Australian whose name was included in a Dictionary of Australian Intellectuals would very likely sue for libel." For me, too, a more modest term is preferred if, indeed, a term is required for the process of what I am trying to do.



Whatever the terminology, my focus is a mixture of author-as-creative-individual, writer-as-literary-intellectual and historian-as-autobiographer. For an artist-writer to be an intellectual it is less important to have a theory of writing than to possess a vision of how their literary work might operate in society and to assume responsibility for it. For me this vision is expressed in a number of ways one of which is what might be called a new "sociological poetics" that "connects literary work to the outside world." This vision is also expressed as an individual, personal, rendition of a Bahá'í interpretation of history and society.



In general terms what I do in this memoir is described succinctly by Jerome Bruner, who has written extensively on life-writing. "We constantly construct and reconstruct a self," writes Bruner, "to meet the needs of the situations we encounter, and we do so with the guidance of our memories of the past and our hopes and fears of the future."




I like to see these memoirs as part of a great body of work by Bahá'ís in the last two centuries. Mine is a body of work that exemplifies both of the two human types that Sir Isaiah Berlin described in an essay he wrote in 1953. Berlin drew a distinction between two human types: those, like the fox, who pursue many ends, often unrelated, even contradictory, and those, like the hedgehog, who relate everything to a single universal organizing principle. He saw Tolstoy as a fox who wanted to be a hedgehog. He considered Aristotle, Goethe, Pushkin, Balzac, Joyce and Turgenev foxes. Plato, Dante, Pascal, Proust and Dostoyevsky were counted among the hedgehogs.



Part 10:

There are some occasions in autobiography when writers abandon any claim or pretense to literal truth and an accurate account of their experience. They strip off the content of their consciousness's excessive valorization and the specificity of their life and--perhaps again excessively--dismiss their life's "very littleness." Whatever facts occupy their conscious awareness they deem but accidental happenings. They discard their autobiographical self as an ultimately trivial and illusory phenomenon and create a novel self. This novel self is constructed out of memory and desire. This attempt, this somewhat novelistic approach to autobiography, continues to punctuate the narrative and becomes a new actuality to the autobiography. This is far from my aim and is not a part of my philosophical approach in any way, but I think it is difficult for autobiographers generally and me in particular to entirely dismiss this autobiographical orientation. Memory is cultural and personal, muscular and cerebral--simultaneously--and its products, contents, can be dealt with in so many ways.



Through a close reading of Wordsworth's first autobiographical sketches made in his late twenties and dating from October 1798 through April 1799, one can demonstrate how Wordsworth creatively remembered his childhood. The context of this memory was in terms of the development of the powers of his imagination. In this six month period at the end of the 18th century we find Wordsworth's earliest autobiographical attempt to trace the ontogeny of his imagination back to the dream state, to play, and to perceptual and conceptual blending. I did not engage in such a serious tracing of my childhood until my early sixties. But I profited from one of the first attempts at poetic autobiography in Wordsworth's The Prelude. It is interesting that Wordsworth's poetic and autobiographical efforts coincided with the earliest years of Shaykh Ahmad's sense of his "unerring vision", his "fixed purpose" and his "crushing responsibilities" associated as they were with a new and coming Revelation.



I could add the results of cognitive neuroscience, drawing on memory research, sleep research, cognitive science and evolutionary psychology, to add an evolutionary history of fictional cognition to my own autobiography as Wordsworth did to the origin and development of his work. An accurate, honest and successful unfolding of the imagination, one could argue, is only possible when accompanied by adequate monitoring systems. An author must possess the capacity to distinguish between what originates in his perception and what is the response of his memory. The resulting tapestry must be sufficiently complex to permit the formulation of a hypothesis about the self which may not be scientifically tested but at least possess some sweet reasonableness.



Part 11:

In a commentary on this first period of composition Wordsworth wrote that his autobiographical self-as-being arose as a virus within his source monitoring system. This investigation by Wordsworth of his early years is a complex one and I don't want to go into any more detail here. I find the same is true of the origins of my own imaginative function: its unfolding is complex. And the monitoring systems that existed at the time of its earliest unfolding are difficult to trace. I hope that readers find here at least some of that sweet reasonableness even if I do not elaborate on the theme I have introduced here dealing with imagination and memory.



When I say that my life has been full of joy and sorrow I do not see this as an apparent contradiction but simply as a reality of my life, like all of our lives. If I analyse my life I can divide it into joyous parts and sorrowful parts. This I have done by discussing these aspects, but I have not precisely quantified these two emotions. My life has been joyous in some respects and sorrowful in others. The whole of life, when analysed in respect to these emotions, could be seen as contradictory and paradoxical. The nature of the reality of our lives is to deal with these endless polarities. Like an oyster we must do what we can to heal the ugly wounds of life by turning life's grains of sand into beautiful pearls. Much has been written about these polarities of life and I do not want to add to the philosophical library here.



Biologists estimate that there are about 5 to 100 million species of organisms living on Earth today. Evidence from morphological, biochemical, and gene sequence data suggests that all organisms on Earth are genetically related, and the genealogical relationships of living things can be represented by a vast evolutionary tree, the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life then represents the phylogeny of organisms, that is, the history of organismal lineages as they change through time. It implies that different species arise from previous forms via descent, and that all organisms, from the smallest microbe to the largest plants and vertebrates, are connected by the passage of genes along the branches of the phylogenic tree that links all of Life. In the broadest of senses, then, my autobiography would be one encompassing all of life. I must, of necessity here, limit my analysis and discussion. I do some assimilation: the personal to the historical, the individual to the societal, the psychological to the sociological. I tell what certain events have meant to my mind and my heart, events in the Bahá'í community and the wider society, but I do not tell what I think should have been done. I do, though, point the way, attempt to engage serious minds whereever I can to the unity, the universality and the new ethos, the new system of values inherent in Bahá'u'lláh's vision that are relevant to the challenges of the next stage in human and social development on the planet.



While imagination can lead to a positive mode of belonging, it can also result in disconnectedness and greater ineffectiveness; it can be so removed from any lived form of life and activity, membership and meaning, that it detaches the identities of readers and leaves them in a state of uprootedness. Readers can lose touch with their sense of social efficacy; their view of reality can be distorted. Imagination is a great power and a difficult one to rule. While that is not my desire, my autobiography may in the end be just a slippery slope in the direction of idle fancies, vain imagination, discontent and disorientation. Good intentions, as they say and as I have said before, are often the road to greater problems. As a teacher of literature, of English and the social sciences, I know only too well that many students turn some of the best writers and the greatest wisdoms right off their radar. I, too, am not immune from this experience. In the end, of course, one writes and sends one's efforts out into the universe and takes what comes.



Alignment is a term applied to writing and to autobiography. It entails negotiating perspectives, finding common ground, defining broad visions and aspirations, walking boundaries and reconciling diverging fields of interest. Alignment requires shareable frameworks and paradigms, boundary items and concepts that help to create fixed points around which to coordinate activities, an oeuvre, a life. It can also require the creation and adoption of broader discourses that help give a literary enterprise some life, some vitality and meaning and by which the microcosm of local actions can be interpreted as fitting within a broader framework. However, alignment can be a violation of a people's sense of self, something that crushes their identity. In some ways, at least for me, alignment is "the pen's obedience to a line already traced in the mind, if not on the page."



Part 12:

It seems to me that, in some respects, I am completely unable to write anything about much that is quintessential in life, nor will I ever be able. For, as Bahá'u'lláh writes, "myriads of mystic tongues find utterances in one speech and how many are the mysteries concealed in a single melody but, alas, there is no ear to hear nor heart to understand." The garment of words can only contain so much. There is much knowledge that can not be put into words like the content of many of the arts and sciences. Mysticism itself finds its origins in this notion. No sensible man will venture to express some of his deepest thoughts in words, especially in a form which is unchangeable. So much that is said and thought here is as potentially changeable as the wind which blows and the clouds which change their patterns in the sky from minute to minute and hour to hour. A self that goes on changing is a self that goes on living, as Virginia Woolf once said.



However changeable, new and wonderful configurations, an ever-varying splendour intimately connected with the power of thought and associated with a mysterious core of self or personality, has come into my life over the decades and it's story is here, however obscurely narrated and however set in a context of change and mystery. The circumstances of life are always changing and truths seem to constantly need restating to maintain their grip, their purchase of truth. Perhaps that is why re-reading is as important as reading. Perhaps that is why, too, that, as Nietzsche said: "every great philosophy so far has been . . . the personal confession of its author and a kind of involuntary and unconscious memoir." What Nietzsche says here is but part of the recognition that anything a person says or writes tells us something essential about the speaker or writer. One should keep in mind of course that, although Plato does have Socrates state somewhere that, ' all men are philosophers', one hears distinctly, in the cavernous silence that follows this disclaimer, the inevitable rejoinder: some people are better at it than others. The same democratic dictum , with analogous rejoinder, can be applied equally well to poets, judges , consultants and cooks.



All of this is obviously a commonplace notion. Not only literature but philosophy and science can also be seen as forms of self-expression, types of autobiography. Self-portraiture is very difficult to avoid when you write, indeed when you live and breath and have your being. As soon as readers accept that a literary text expresses, or makes exterior, something within its author, then it becomes inevitable that they will use that text as a key to that interior, that biography, that autobiography. As a man is, so he sees and so he writes.



The activism that has been part of my life over these four epochs has many facets. It is not like a journey to the corner store, not the occasional donation to some organization like amnesty or a save the whale or the tree campaign, or a periodic march in the name of some cause or an endless series of criticisms of government, institutions and prominent people in public, it is a plunge into the dark with a commitment, a commitment for life and with many strings attached. The history of the activism I have been associated with since the 1950s is more like the weather than like checkers or chess or something that ends after an afternoon of protest or a vote in an election after weeks of advertising's sloganizing and simplifying. Games, elections and protests all end, but the weather you always have with you. At the end of a game, you add up the scores, sort out the winners and losers, close up the board and go on to something else.


But with the social activism in this Cause, one can pause, take a break, pack up your bags and move to another town or even another marriage, but you can never add up the score. It's part of your mental set until you resign, stop believing in its truth, get converted to some secular or other cause like pessimism, skepticism, nihilism, cynicism, one of the many wasms and isms that occupy people's minds and hearts and that also can change with the seasons. You can't tote up the score, close up the board, and go home unless, as I say, you lose your sense of commitment, your sense of belief.



We must acknowledge the darkness of our moment and our world, but we also must realize that the score isn't in, that it can't be known. Not ever, not really. We play a part in a process and we must define that process and examine in what way we want to be part of that process. We have to make a wager, to take a leap into the dark, and bet on faith in our cause, hope and commitment to its future and, in the short term, we simply can't know the consequences of our acts, a point I can not make with enough force. Sure and quick victories, always delightful and always giving you the feeling the fight was worth it, worth living for, are a different genre to defeats.



Defeats are not final and, as Virginia Woolf wrote in her journal eight months into WW1, "The future is dark, which is on the whole, the best thing the future can be, I think." Dark, she seems to say, she seems to define, as something inscrutable, not as something terrible. We often lose the meaning of darkness as Woolf defines it. People imagine the end of the world is nigh because the future is unimaginable. Who twenty years ago would have pictured a world without the USSR and with the Internet?



Part 13:

We talk about "what we hope for" in terms of what we hope will come to pass, but we could think of it another way, as why we hope. We hope on principle, we hope tactically and strategically, we hope because the future is dark, we hope because it's a more powerful and a more joyful way to live. Despair presumes it knows what will happen next. But who, two decades ago, would have imagined that the Canadian government would give a huge swathe of the north back to its indigenous people, or that the imprisoned Nelson Mandela would become president of a free South Africa? But hope must be linked to something more, something akin to certitude, something akin to whole-hearted enthusiasm, something that invites a totality of response unchecked by any maybe, one of the characteristics of great art.



The famous film actor, Sean Connery, once said about writing his memoirs that the process was "time-absorbing and very wearing. It's the sort of thing that wakes you up in the middle of the night." I, too, found the exercise wearing for many years especially after the first edition was completed in 1993. For nearly a decade, 1993 to 2003, I could not get a sense of meaning, of perspective, that accumulation of novelty, of freshness and of vitality with respect for my work that would make it live, if not for others at least for me. It felt like dry dust, the transfer of dry bones from one graveyard to another. When I finally did find a fresh approach in the years 2003 to 2006 the exercise became time-absorbing, time-consuming, indeed, an obsession and an enriching one personally. I felt a sense of literary virtuosity I had never had before, an interpretive extravagance which may turn some readers off even as it turned me on. My private scaffolding, though, was not so much one of self-assurance, but rather one of striving to cross the spaces between life's fragments and its many points of separation and experience some sense of synthesis, union and wholeness.



Whatever I achieved in this vein, with this aim and direction in my work was a gift. I was not involved so much in amassing facts and relating endless details of my life, although I could not entirely avoid this activity, as I was experiencing a precarious literary existence suspended between the past and the present hoping to touch some ice-tipped azure of my highest excellence with both moderation and balance, flexibility and elasticity. It was like my soul trying to glimpse certitude, trying to touch my life with wonder, trying to tell something of my soul's flight if not my mind's ease, something that reflected the motions of my heart in this twilight generation, this generation of the half-light. But whether I was responding to the capacities of some potential readership, I really had no idea. In the several years that this work had been sprinkled in varying quantities onto the internet, I slowly learned, yet again and again, to respond to criticism and misunderstanding with either silence or a in a language that is "temperate, moderate and infinitely courteous," grounded in an awareness of my own shortcomings and my own frail vulnerability and weakness, tempering my voice and training my vison. This process, this tempering, this training is slow, repeated many times on the road of life and seems to need a whole lifetime to make it part of your very nerves and sinews.



Sean Connery also admitted that his autobiography proved to be "much, much more difficult" than he anticipated. When I started writing my narrative in 1984/5 I had no idea what the process would be like. I could not and did not anticipate that I'd still be writing it nearly twenty-five years later. Connery doesn't have any glib explanations about the way his career of fame and wealth developed. My explanations about how my life developed are also far from glib, although after nearly 2500 pages, some of my readers may wish they were glib.



After long continued intercourse between my many teachers, as we have been in joint pursuit of our several, our many, subjects—over these decades--suddenly, insensibly, like the light flashing forth when a fire is kindled, there has been born, created, it seems in my soul, some dazzling rays of a strange, heavenly power, which nourishes and is nourished. It seems just about impossible to convey in writing and a fortiori in dialogue with others without sounding presumptuous, pretentious, self-righteous, even arrogant in some sense. This flashing forth, this kindling and dazzling is and has been a process not an event. The process has been so incremental, often so insensible and certainly so mysterious that to discuss it here would require a separate book.



Part 14:

I would, though, like to say a few things about Clive James' new book Cultural Amnesia. James and his book illustrate some of what I'd like to say about this process that I have referred to in the above paragraph. James's book is prompted by the suspicion that a new age of barbarism is indeed descending. He has lots of company in this view. My recent memoir is also prompted by a similar intuition. But like the barbarism of the late Roman Empire in the West in the second and third century A.D., I take the view that a new religion is growing in our midst. Like Christianity which crept, half-hidden, along the foundations and against the background of an Augustan empire, the Bahá'í Faith seems, thusfar, too insignificant to be noticed by history for it, too, is growing slowly, obscurely, insensibly in our modern and postmodern world.



In his book James also offers a steady stream of advice on how to go about the business of self-education. I offer advice, for the most part indirectly, or such is my hope, for I am all too conscious of the limitations of direct advice-giving; I do not advise any must-reads or how-tos. There are, as in James's work, many anecdotes, but I do not see myself as exemplar. Like James in his Cultural Amnesia I launch a symphony of voices; I hope it is not a cacophony.



My life, like James's, has been richly social, but not in the world of celebrities and media. I have read a great deal, but nothing like the quantity that James has consumed. James says that most of his listening was to the authors behind the books he read; in my case, until I retired in 1999, most of my listening was to people in the raw: individuals, groups, communities. For a host of reasons--the expansion of universities, of suburbs and of telecommunications, to name three--the kind of face-to-face intellectual-artistic life that was exemplified in coteries in the past, and that flourished in other twentieth-century cities before WW1, simply no longer exists or so James sees it. I agree, but not all the way. I feel as if I've done an awful lot of face-to-face stuff in my life.



James's answer to this intellectual-artistic bereavement is the book itself as is my own memoir—partly. Here is the café, the former place of the intellectual-artist; he has created it in his mind; it is a convocation of voices that respond to one another across the barriers of language, outlook, expressive form and, most of all, time. Over the decades and beginning while at university in the 1960s, I was driven away from academic institutions of higher learning and toward a more journalistic approach, to a plain speech and a style of writing that was not as esoteric as an MA thesis or a PhD dissertation. Direct observation and the necessity to entertain was absolutely crucial for James—and for me. I would never have survived in classrooms had these qualities not surfaced insensibly over the first half-a-dozen years of my teaching experience from 1967 to 1973.



Not in the mass media eye, as James was and with his immense success, I settled for a more modest achievement in the world of "the school" and "the college." Like James, I wrote essays, reviews, sketches and squibs for students; I also wrote in longer and more conventionally prestigious forms, but always in styles that had been honed by the whetstone of conversation, but without the accruing prestige that James accumulated.



Part 15:

Writing for the student and for the popular press, even at a much less successful and prestigious level of everyday journalism than James, demands both simplicity and compression, and compression, if it is of good quality, makes language glow. I felt, as the years went on, that some light was finally being emitted from the marks on the page that I was putting down. The stylistic models that James and I emulated were much different. However different, they each could "pour a whole view of life, a few cupfuls at a time, into the briefest of paragraphs." James highest hero, "the voice behind the book's voices" and one of several exceptions to his rule of writing only about twentieth-century figures, was Tacitus.



It was Tacitus who wrote the sentence, says James, out of which the entire volume Cultural Amnesia grew: "They make a desert and they call it peace." James heard the line quoted as a young man and "saw straight away that a written sentence could sound like a spoken one, but have much more in it."



My Tacitus, was Gibbon and Gibbon saw his history as a continuation of Tacitus' work. I felt James and I were on a similar track. I would like to think that my memoirs are what James' book Cultural Amnesia was to the reviewer in The Nation; namely, "less a collection of great figures than of great sentences." But alas and alack, this is not the case. That same reviewer, William Deresiewicz, went on to say, "reading Cultural Amnesia feels like having a conversation with the most interesting person in the world: You're not saying much, but you just want to keep listening anyway." Well, I'm not sure I have had such a conversation in years—as a talker or a listener—expect in books. But James is, for me, one of my many, one of my crucial, mentors.



The reason James is such a good talker is that he's such a good listener. He means it literally when he says that the book took forty years to write, because its quotations are the harvest of the notebooks he has kept for all that time, and the notebooks are the harvest of his insatiable reading. Forty years of talking tired me out as did forty years of listening. Forty years of my note-taking has resulted, for me, in a small study filled with files that annoy my wife who has a penchant for the tidy and the clean, the orderly and the useful. It is a penchant I share with her but in a different modus operandi, modus vivendi. Forty years of reading and note-taking gave me an even greater appetite for print after I retired from full-time, part-time and casual-work in the years 1999 to 2005.



Part 16:

Ever since running into Tacitus, says James, he has been a connoisseur of aphorisms and aphorists--of writing that is both conversational and compressed and of the kinds of minds that produce it. It's no coincidence that he is also a connoisseur of music. "Echoes of a predecessor's rhythm, pace and melody are rarely accidental": That sentence contains four terms that sound like they refer to music, but it's about writing. Rhythm is central to James's understanding of style, and so are "echoes"--that is, memory. He is himself an incandescent and virtually habitual aphorist.



I, too, went down this road but not quite as passionately as James, for I was not in the media spotlight that he was, a spotlight where the aphorism is one of the kings of the sound-bite and the clever turn of phrase. I did collect quotations in my many notebooks, but clever turns of phrase and jokes always slightly eluded me. As I approach my sixtieth year, I found there was just too much to copy into notebooks; there was too much that was useful. By then my computer directory began to come in handy. I did not have had to transcribe an entire book, entire articles, paragraphs or sentences. the internet and the computer saved an immense pile of paper and pleased my wife, a person who had become, also by the age of sixty, the crucial person in my life.



The love of the beautifully turned phrase goes far deeper than mere appreciation. The identifiable tone of voice, a tone which is a synthesis of all the voices one has ever heard, is at the core of the term "voice." The most individual style in the world is the product of a collective effort. In gathering the voices that inhabit our own, the echoes we hear in our head, are indeed produced by the growth of our mind; it is the song of ourself. I have discussed this in connection with Wordsworth's poem The Prelude and my own poetry.


To fully participate in community life in the sense that is at the heart of this autobiography each Bahá'í must find ways to engage in the work, the community enterprize in their own individual way. They will do some things that others do, that other community members do, but they must be able to imagine their own work as being an important part of a larger enterprise. And they must be comfortable that the larger enterprise and its smaller components as well as the many conventions of that community are compatible with the identities they envision for themselves. Being a part of the community, then, is not simply a matter of learning new skills, new attitudes and new values, but also of fielding new calls for identity construction. This understanding of identity suggests that people enact and negotiate identities in the world over time. For identity is dynamic and it is something that is presented and re-presented, constructed and reconstructed in interaction. And like the tension in violin strings which are the basis of musical harmony, life in community also possess a tension with which we must play in harmony. Of course, this is not always so. Often only noise is produced. this is true when one writes, when one talks and when one lives and works in community.



The individual experience of power derives from belonging, but it also derives from exercising control over what we belong to, what we participate in, what we read, indeed, an entire panoply and pageantry of activity. Each individual is heterogeneously made up of various competing discourses, often conflicted and virtually always possessed of contradictory scripts. Our consciousness is anything but unified. In many ways wholeness or integration is not so much a goal as a battle, at least some kind of perpetual balancing act of dealing with unstable forces, forces which we must try to reconcile or they will tear at our psyches. These unstable forces may also cause us to withdraw and, like a planet slipping from orbit and following the dictates of its own centrifugal momentum, become ultimately so remote from the magnetic attraction of the sun that it flies irretrievably into remoteness. This can happen to both individuals and societies. Inner conflict is not so much a disorder as it is the first law of human psychic life and is part of that principle of polarity at the centre of life.



The Australian critic and raconteur Clive James made a pertinent point in this connection when he compered an ABC FM Radio program about Australian orchestras in concert. He said that large countries like Australia and the USA don't have identities. They are too diverse. I think the same is true about individuals. They are also diverse over a lifetime to have a single identity.



There is now a great wealth of literature available to the Bahá'í community, both in-house literature and the burgeoning material now available in the marketplace. My book occupies a small place, possesses no particular authority and competes for a place, for space, with a print and electronic media industry of massive proportions. In order to survive and do well in most of the print and electronic media a writer must develop the ability to put things simply and effectively, in a manner that everyone can understand. Such a writer has maybe a minute and a half to two minutes if he is talking on the TV to explain a complex subject or a series of short verbal expositions if he is involved in an interview; even a book, if it is to find a large readership in the mass circulation market, must be as simple as possible.



Part 17:

Many academics and intellectuals are so steeped in academic jargon that they are unable to simplify their material. I hope this book is not an example of this academic problem, the problem of someone who could not pull off the simplification process. I'm afraid simplicity and brevity are not marks of my literary style. So, perhaps, I will fail here. Time will tell.



I knew of a senior academic who was asked to appear on a local TV station. She showed up with six or seven books and they had little pieces of paper stuck in the books for purposes of quotation. The whole interview was over in less than two minutes; she never read any of her quotations and she was frustrated that she just couldn't make her points. She didn't understand that if you're going to play in the media ballpark, you have to play by their rules, not your own. I like to think that this book, this autobiography, has allowed me to have my six books and their quotations and that the role of this book does not include a two minute TV summary or an interview of ten minutes on an arts program. On the other hand, I could probably write a ten second autobiographical-ad grab, summarize what I'm all about in one or two minutes and be interviewed for any appropriate length of time. Maybe it will never happen before I die.



There are many different kinds of self-referential writing. I have incorporated some of them in what is for me a surprisingly large work invoking Whitman's "I am large, I contain multitudes," as an appropriate presiding spirit for the genre. Whatever largeness I claim to possess, it is the same largeness we all possess in relation to ourselves. We all must live in our own skins for all our days and the sense of our largeness--or our smallness for that matter--is a result of our bodily manifestation, our physical proximity to self. In the multitude of methods and genres of studies of Bahá'í history and experience, teachings and organization, autobiography is either tentatively acknowledged, invoked by negation or simply passed over in silence. It is one genre that is, for the most part, conspicuous by its absence from any bibliography. This has begun to change in the last decade or two. This piece of writing is part of that change.



So often we commiserate over the lack of history writing or, as Momen puts it, how "lamentably neglectful in gathering materials" for the history of the Bahá'í Faith we have been. History writing and the transmission of the narrative of a group has often been a problem. "It wasn't until the 1850's," writes Russell Shorto in his review of Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower that "William Bradford's narrative of the founding of Plymouth in 1620 was finally published." Only then, after 230 years, did the story of the first years of the history of the USA enter the historical record. While Momen may be right, there are many ways to look at the gathering of historical documents. Just how this autobiography will appear in the grand scheme of things only time, only history, will tell. This autobiography comes from the historical experience within four epochs in the first century of the Formative Age.



Part 18:

While my work makes no attempt, no pretense, to being a history of the period, it does attempt to express the experience of one man. How relevant this will be for future generations I leave to those mysterious dispensations of Providence which I often refer to in this now lengthy book. The details of my experience in this new Faith and the details associated with its origins and development in the various Bahá'í communities I lived in or was associated with in a broad sense could be said, if one wanted to be critical, to represent 'intentional history.' This type of history is a form of social memory which establishes the image of the past that the community wishes to transmit and a resulting type of corporate identity. I suppose it is difficult to avoid this problem, this tendency, entirely. No matter how frustrating my experience has been—and there is no question that I have suffered as so many have done because of the Bahá'í community---I love this community and my positive bias toward it is unavoidable. I have gone a long way toward my goal of presenting this community as honestly and accurately as I can, or so it seems to me. However much I have shaped my life and times into a discernible and personal storyline, it is with an eye to the future and the uncertainties of the present that preoccupies me and shapes much that is written here.



The mechanics of constructing the past, my past, my real historical memories and contemporary, homoeostatic dynamics of the Bahá'í community are closely intertwined in the formation and ongoing formation of the metanarrative that is Bahá'í history. This is inevitable. For history's first historian, Herodotus, there were no official versions. What mattered to this Greek historian was the local nature of his information, in all its complexity. Some local, some idea of the past of a polis was a shared possession, rooted in cult and a complex ongoing tradition. For me, on the other hand, there is an official, a written history and it is this history which matters. What also matters, although in quite a different sense, is the local, complex, ongoing, nature of my information, the personal, the complex, the individual, the local, story. Much of my poetry in this autobiography has a similar emphasis to Homer's and the poetry of many another poet in the sense that it is about: "the poetry of the past." I use poetry to help me navigate the labyrinth of personal connections, -isms, and the historical nexuses which often seem too complicated for me to find my way through. I hope readers find here a lucidity that helps them cope with the complexity they find in both their community and their personal life.



To make one more comparison between the experience of the Bahá'ís and the founding fathers of America in 1620, I'd like to quote what Philbrick says about these founders, namely, that they "began to see that they were traversing a mythic land, where a sense of community extended far into the distant past." It took time for them to appreciate the significance of the Indian religious tradition. Relations with the Indians were the axis, says Philbrick, for a history of the Pilgrims. In time the Pilgrim colony became caught up in massacre and sadness; one could reasonably conclude that this underscores the danger of believing that God guides one's hand.



I used to think the relationship with indigenous peoples was the critical axis of the Bahá'í community in our time. That was one of the main ideological reasons for my going to live, first among the Inuit and then among the Aboriginals. But as time, as my life, has moved on, I am more of the view that a more critical axis is the power of understanding. There are other axes, too, but this subject is too long for an exposition of all the relevant axes and themes here. For the Bahá'ís, during the four epochs that was the temporal framework for my experience and that of my community, they too faced crises, as great or greater than those faced by the American Pilgrims. They were crises that threatened to arrest the community's unfoldment from time to time and, as Shoghi Effendi once said threatened to "blast all the hopes which its progress had engendered."



"There's something terribly feminine about novel writing," John Fowles once wrote. "When you create characters," he went on, "all processes are analogous to childbirth, including postnatal depression. When a book is reviewed, it is like the weaning of children. You're kicked about or even praised--and the book is separated from you. At a conscious level, this may be painful. But at an unconscious level, this leaves one free--to write another novel." What Fowles says here about novels has been partly true of my experience of writing this autobiography. The main difference is that this book is still connected to me by a literary umbilical chord. I will go on working on it for some time to come: until I'm tired of it or I die.



Fowles goes on to say something which I think is also true of writing autobiography, at least--partly--for me. He says: "The novel is an impossible voyage. It's a mystery why you keep doing it." He asked, "Why is an unhappy ending considered more artistic than a happy ending?" and then he answered this question himself: "In some ways the unhappy ending pleases the novelist. He has set out on a voyage and announced, I have failed and must set out again. If you create a happy ending, there is a somewhat false sense of having solved life's problems." For me, the question of endings has not come in to this autobiography. Obviously, I am still alive and could be here for another 30 or 40 years. My story, my autobiography could be only half or two-thirds over. And happiness, for me, has only a tangential relationship with the glitter and tinsel of an affluent society or the superficial adjustments to the modern world envisioned by humanitarian movements or publicly proclaimed as the policy of enlightened statesmanship. Happiness is much more of a paradoxical thing, a conundrum, a galimaufery-to hose a name from a Bahá'í folk group--a mixture of unlike thing.



Part 19:

I have set out many times on this autobiographical journey. It is a mysterious journey, an impossible one in some ways. This journey could be divided into three aspects: the spatial, the temporal and the intellectual. I divide and mix the three, partly for convenience, partly due to serendipity and partly due to quite unknown processes. The three are textually interconnected. The temporal journey meshes with the experience of space to shape the protagonist's-that's me-intellectual development. In a certain philosophical sense, there is no world other than that the one I create, the one of which I am the maker, the one I have outlined here in a general sense.



Henri LeFebvre sees space as active, "not a passive surface" and has three components: perceived, conceived and lived space. Trying to keep the three points of the triad straight is not as important, at least for my argument, as is maintaining a sense of their interlocked relation. Lived, perceived, and conceived space folds into and spins across its several forms, working together to accomplish the production of spaces: place, space, landscape, and location as in--streets, homes, rooms, fields, buildings, people, inter alia. These spaces become embodied with stories, memories, and all sorts of meanings. Although the world is indeed increasingly well connected, we must hold this connectedness in balance with the observation that most people live intensely local lives." This has been true for me throughout these epochs, although in the realm of thought I have been travelling all my pioneering life in wider vistas.



Jean-Paul Sartre's pronouncement that prose is an attitude of mind applies equally well to poetry. I move from one attitude to another throughout this work. There is an inconclusive quality to prose, poetry and art for me. The symbolic and the suggestive are both a strong part of my writing. To be a writer, Joseph Conrad wrote in a letter in 1895, "you must treat events as the outward signs of inward feelings," and to accomplish this "you must cultivate your poetic faculty." Conrad wrote in another letter: "A work of art is very seldom limited to one exclusive meaning and not necessarily tending to a definite conclusion. And this for the reason that the nearer it approaches art, the more it acquires a symbolic character. All the great creations of literature have been symbolic, and in that way have gained in complexity, in power, in depth and in beauty."



Cultural geography is concerned with those aspects of land and space, in both the micro and the macro sense, that shape people's ideas about themselves, and give to their identities a characteristic expression. Landscape is really an all-embracing concept. It includes virtually everything around us and has manifest significance for everyone. This sub-section of geography, the cultural sphere, formulates the complex strategies of identification that function in the name of a people and a nation. It is here that the recollection, the sense, of home and belonging are constructed and create an imagined and/or a real community. There results from this study of land and space a collectiveness that is addressed in different ways by different peoples, that is part of their identity and that structures belonging. I have mentioned this from time to time in this autobiography, but it has not occupied much of my attention. This is probably due to the many places I have lived rather than one which has helped to form my identity.



Part 20:

This whole question of the sense of identity has been part and parcel of the western literary tradition going right back to Homer and the Old Testament writers. Early poetry of the eighth century BCE, Hesiod, Homer and the tradition they belonged to, has as a major theme of the identity of the Greek people, whether united in a military expedition as in the Iliad or as a geographical system in the Catalogue of Ships. My poetry and my autobiography is concerned, too, with the notion of identity, the identity of the Bahá'í community and my own identity both within that community and without. It is this aspect of my identity that I give more of my attention to in this work.



The decision to pioneer internationally in 1971, to go abroad as we used to say, a decision I made with my first wife or, more honestly, because of my first wife, after graduating from college in 1967 and teaching for three years, represented an embrace of the challenges and pleasures of the unfamiliar. This reorientation was also a form of disorientation due to the new that flooded in from all sides and pulled old assumptions off their moorings. Just as a compelling theory may force students to fall back on what they know, only to find that the theory has changed the way in which they considered this knowledge, so the experience of living on a foreign continent makes one look homeward and realize that home will never be the same.



The lesson I have learned during my 35 years as an expatriate is perhaps best described as a semantic one: home, Canada, and North America ceased forever to be synonyms in my mind. Even if home still lies "over there," certain signs of it greet the eyes of Canadians abroad no matter where we go. Unlike the USA which, more than any other country, extends beyond its borders with its extensive global permutations and permeations reshaping foreign economic, political, and social, not to mention imaginative landscapes—all in the image of America, Canada remains snowlocked in a bleak and lonely landscape and, even in our more media-saturated world, the country still lies somewhat remote and isolated, clean and distant.



The more I have travelled, the more I have learned, the more I have come to realize that, should I return after having departed home, home and homeland, the objects of my patriotic projections, cares little for me or my loyalty. The idea, then, that I belong to a place, and that that place in turn belongs to me, merely exposes me to disappointment, and conditions me to contest for and die over a fiction, which, by its very nature, denies and defies belonging.



The Canadian or the American abroad--and certainly me in Australia--sees that the foreign landscapes where he dwells are not just mirror images of home. Some landscapes are, of course, familiar in some ways, and some are not. In a globalizing world our experience of contemporary reality is fused with the dreams, fantasies, and satellite image-fed visions of everyone and everything from the original European colonizers in our homeland, to a set of explorers like Lewis and Clark or Cartier and Cabot, to Somali refugees, to the likes of al-Qaeda. These ideas that traditionally existed behind quite clear borders have been in this era of mass communication, mixed into one big pot. To put this a little differently: the world has become one country.



Canada became, particularly in this global age, something that was neither simply a place, nor as a permanent set of values, beliefs, attitudes, or philosophies. It was, it became, an idea, one that was fluid and open to constant change and not defined by traditional constraints like geography, politics, and nationality. My personal experience, however, showed me that thinking of Canada in these terms as I did, was neither simple nor easy. It was easier said than done and, if done as I had done now for over 30 years, it was not easy to put into words. This was true not only of my Canadianness but of my pioneeringness and much else.



"The art of autobiography has many facets. One of the critical facets is omission. One's own forgetfulness is very important. Indeed, as I have pointed out elsewhere, most of my life is simply not here. It has been omitted in the interest of interest. As in the daily round one can only bring to memory a certain portion of one's experience, otherwise one would literally drown in data, in memories, in a chaos of facticity. As the world passed through the golden age of astronomy during these epochs, as it advanced through a range of new technologies from the computer to satellite, from radio to TV, video to DVD, inter alia, as it doubled its population from 3 to 6 billion, so much was invented and developed, so much impacted on man and society-but I have omitted the discussion of these and so many other facets of the industrial and commercial developments of our time. I belonged to the first generation born into a world in which television had been invented, but not yet popularized.



Part 21:

Claude Simon, in the lecture he gave when given the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1985, said, "I find that what one writes or describes is never something which has happened prior to the work of writing. On the contrary the writing produces something in every sense of the term in the course of working." The writing, Simon argues, produces something within its own present. I find this to be my own experience as well. This work has returned unremittingly to decisive and not so decisive events in my life. I have created a seam of light, of gold, of joy, that has had its source, its origins in the Bahá'í Faith. With fire my gold has been tested and life's gold in its many forms has tested this servant again and again. Many of life's tests I did not pass. But like a close cricket series, I won't know the score or, indeed, if I won, until the last ball is played and the series has ended. Indeed, I'm not so sure the cricket metaphor about winning even applies here because so often in life the first shall be last and the last first. The act of writing for me is more of an effort of understanding. My aim is to be clear and evocative for in this way I feel more in touch with my subject.



Many of the ideas in Richard Sennett's The Culture of The New Capitalism reflect the new metaphors of meaning that I see inhabiting my life. The transience, risk and fragility that frame the world of market speculation have come to infect the way people work and live? I have found this to be true since the years I entered university, the work force and community life in the sixties. Old hierarchies and institutions have been, are being and will be overthrown; work and life have been and are more flexible than ever; new communications have opened up the world – but none of this has necessarily made us free. Sennet claims that older ways of life were underwritten by a far greater commitment to stability, to authority, to the way things were, than new ways of life by those enamoured by unfettered markets, by a questioning of authority and by a desire for change. Older-style capitalism, social mores and an orientation to tradition created a grounding context where workers could derive some meaning and satisfaction from what they did. Social capitalism in the very recent past, say, up to the post-WW2 period and into the 1960s, granted what Sennett calls the 'gift of organised time.' You could plan your future life within the organization. In other words, the relative stability of 'social capitalism' created an experience of time suited to building the self as a narrative project. This has not entirely disappeared, but its presence as a rock of social stability has long gone.



Sennett's narrativised self is part of the rise of social capitalism. It coincided with the rise of linear narrative forms such as the 19th century novel and the autobiography. Both constructed a self that unfolded through time, where experiences and events shaped identity. The autobiography especially, displayed a particularly mercantile logic, as the author shaped a messy life into a narrative where experiences accumulated like investments to reveal the final payoff, the published writer, the autobiographer and the biographer. For Sennett, the working-self for centuries, perhaps millennia, gains meaning in this kind of linear projection; identity defines itself in the space between where one has come from and where one might end up.



By contrast, the new capitalism, the vast changes in society in the last half century, have ushered in a very different culture. Traditional corporations aimed at gradual profit. Corporations today, dominated by fickle shareholders, are governed by short-term speculation, risk and a mindset where destabilising the organization sends a positive, rather than negative message to investors. Sennett argues that this instability is devastating for workers. The company that downsizes, gets taken over, or reinvents itself is no longer a place where one can plan for the future. As I look back over my employment life, I seem to have downsized myself. An instability factor always seemed to be present as I reinvented my wheel of life time and time again, not from stratch mind you, but there were so many restarts.



The new capitalism, the new society, that has emerged in this last half century since I went looking for part time work, for summer jobs, in the 1950s is in many ways blind to past experience. The accomplishments of an employee mean little in a world of continual retraining and rapid obsolescence. Indeed, employees who takes pride in their work, subscribing to the ideal of work as craft, is regarded in many cases with suspicion as mired in the past, probably unsuitable for re-skilling. I felt this change in the 1980s and 1990s, insensibly in the work places I was associated with in Australia. Nowadays, in the words of one employee, "each time you start a new job you need to fake it. The boss expects you to know how things should be done and what he wants. But of course you don't. It's a challenge'."



Part 22:

For Sennet only a particular kind of person is able to succeed in this culture, a person who in a sense has no self, who doesn't need a sustaining life narrative or, someone who sees the world as his home, who has become a global citizen. This person is likely to be either naïve, or a member of the new breed of so-called 'office psychopaths' able to divorce themselves from responsibility, in a different context the kind of person who might fake an autobiography, or indeed, someone whose loyalty is as a cosmopolitan and not a local. Any wonder then that the new capitalism spawns different cultural representations, where those whose lives that stress randomness and chance begin to supplant those with linear narratives. As philosopher Slavoj Zizek notes, our own era is haunted by the idea of contingency, the sense that we live in a radically open situation.



Think of the rising genre of 'what-if?' histories that speculate how a single event, a delayed letter, a chance meeting, might have radically altered the world. Or consider the films of Kryztstof Kieslowski (Chance, or the Double Life of Veronique), or other narratives in recent literature and film that present parallel lives for the same person. The privileging of contingency in the workplace but also in the wider culture superficially equates with openness and freedom, but behind this lie deeper anxieties over a loss of control of our situation. I could quote many a chapter and verse with "what if," scenarios in my life. But this would lead to prolixity.



Sennett claims the destabilizing forces found in the new workplace also manifest themselves in consumer society. Much of what we consume is based on potential rather than use: MP3 players store more songs that we can hear, SUVs are designed to go places we'll never go, Wallmart complexes are overstacked with items we don't need. For Sennett this unusable potential ushers in a strange kind of passivity where possibility is more important than actual realization. One might find a parallel of sorts here, in the critical backlash against so-called 'hysterical realism.'



The sprawling novels of David Foster Wallace, Zadie Smith, Salman Rushdie and the like are books which remain inextricably tied to the information society they depict. So while they contain massive quantities of obscure scientific knowledge, geographical and biographical trivia, lists and details, they fail the test of art: namely, to realize something different from this information.



If such critics are at all persuasive in their claim that neither the subjects nor the reader can usefully do anything with all this information, then these novels are indeed symptomatic of the culture Sennett describes, a culture where ceaseless consumption of either goods or information mitigates against possession. Sennett's suggestions as to how we might alter this situation through the provision of basic incomes, job sharing, counter-institutions to provide stable work---are designed to reconnect the thread of experience together, to enable a self to become more grounded in time, but they are perhaps too modest in the face of the spiritual, economic and environmental situation that stems from the new capitalism.



Still, Richard Sennett's latest book eloquently depicts the devastating irony that results when the iron cage of modern capitalism opens, only to imprison us within more intangible forms of unfreedom. And might the transience, risk and fragility that frame the world of market speculation come to infect the way the rest of us work and live? Richard Sennett thinks so. His new book argues that we need to rethink Marx's dictum 'all that is solid melts into air'. The once praised 'creative destruction' of capitalism now merely destroys. For Sennett, this 'new capitalism' requires us to rethink our assumptions about openness and freedom.



Part 23:

Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy among other 19th century novelists were also aware of the play of chance, accident, circumstance or contingency on our lives. In his last 30 years, 1840 to 1870, Dickens never had any more money troubles; he never had any lack of popularity; he was a “glutton for work” and could choose his time, place and manner of doing it after a fashion which deprives work of all, or nearly all, of its worrying effect. He found, in addition to his original and independent work as novelist, two occupations, that of editor and that of public reader, both of which were very profitable, while the former of them gave exercise to his busy and rather autocratic temper, and the latter furnished an outlet to the histrionic faculty which was almost as strong in him as the literary. He died at the age of 58; but after a full, glorious and, apparently, on the whole, happy life, not, indeed, without some preliminary illness, but without suffering from that terrible lingering failure of faculties which had beset Scott and Southey and Moore in the generation immediately before him. Fame and fortune after the very earliest step, and far earlier than in most cases, had, in almost all respects, been equally kind to him.



I mention Dickens here since, after my retirement from the world of being a student and then an employee, a world than had occupied me for half a century(1949 to 1999), I could also satisfy my lifelong gluttony for work without its worrying effect, without the ambiguity and conflicting pushes and pulls on my life from job, community responsibilities as a Bahai and family activity. Like Dickens, I came to enjoy two additional occupations after retirement: editing and publishing my own work on the internet as well as work as a journalist and a promoter of causes---especially the Cause. The outlet to the histrionic faculty which was almost as strong in Dickens as the literary, had been strong in me and a 35 year teaching career had given full vent to this theatrical tendency. By the time I was 55 I had little desire for social life and its inevitable theatrical aspects. I have already had a decade more of life than Dickens; I will never enjoy his fame or wealth---and time will tell what will happen to my faculties in old age. Reading about Dickens recently forced this comparison on me. I also wrote the following prose-poem which I insert here:



Part 24:

THANKS CHARLES

Although I was a student then teacher of English literature and composition at all levels of the educational process, from primary to post-secondary school from the 1950s through the 1990s, I never really got ‘into’ the works of Charles Dickens(1812-1870). None of his books were ever on any of the curricula that I had to teach. The opening sentence to one of my all time favorite books in the world The Catcher In the Rye by J.D. Salinger placed my attitude as a young and middle-aged man to Charles Dickens and his books. That sentence read: "If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know about my life is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap..."



As I got into late adulthood, though, the years after 60, according to one model of human development in the lifespan, I began to take an interest in Dickens, his life and his writings. Tonight I watched the first of a new mini-series Little Dorrit. It was screened in the U.K. in 2008, in the USA in 2009 and now it was here in Australia in 2010.1 Little Dorrit was published between 1855 and 1857. It was, among other things, an indictment of the British system of justice. Virginia Woolf maintained, in a helpful turn of phrase, that "we remodel our psychological geography when we read Dickens," as he produces "characters who exist not in detail, not accurately or exactly, but abundantly in a cluster of wild yet extraordinarily revealing remarks."



All authors might be said to incorporate autobiographical elements in their fiction or, in my case, in their poetry. With both Dickens and I, though, this autobiographical aspect to their writing is very noticeable. Dickens took pains to mask what he considered his shameful, lowly past. I do not take pains to mask my life, my relationships, my religion or my mental-illness, although I certainly do not reveal-all. Dickens's own father was sent to prison for debt, and this became a common theme in many of his books. The detailed depiction of life in the Marshalsea prison in Little Dorrit resulted from Dickens's own experiences of that institution. The delightful Claire Foy, as Amy Dorrit, is an idealised character; this idealising of character serves only to highlight Dickens's goal of poignant social commentary. An important impact of Dickens's episodic writing style resulted from his exposure to the opinions of his readers. Since Dickens did not write the chapters very far ahead of their publication, he was allowed to witness the public reaction and alter the story depending on those public reactions. I, too, found, this aspect of public reaction important in my writing on the internet since I retired from FT, PT and casual work in the years 1999 to 2005.-Ron Price with thanks to 1ABC TV, 27 June 2010, 8:35 p.m.
     
Well, Charles, I can understand
your despair about society and
those seemingly unbridgeable
gaps..Yes, people do so stick
to their beliefs---assumptions
about life with their emotions
wrapped around them—their
faith, Charles, that’s their faith.

We all have our faith; for each
of us our faith decides what our
mountains are from day to day...

Yes, Charles, we all go on our
pilgrimage in search of eternity
as restless travellers in search of
our true selves often imprisoned
as they are in the greatest prison
of all---the prison of self.1 Thank
you, Charles, for so many things:
helping me with my writing......my
autobiographical self and listening
to my readers as best I can before
writing more in my serialized and
seemingly endless prose----poetry.
1 Takao Saijo, “Charles Dickens: His Novels and Society,” Internet Site, 27 June 2010. This term ‘the prison of self’ is also one found in the Baha’i writings which have been important to me for nearly 60 years.



27 June 2010



Part 25:

One of the ways, the contexts, I have had to rethink my assumptions, especially for a person like myself who has lived in 40 houses in his autobiographical life and had more jobs than he could shake a stick at, has been in the management of short and long term relationships while migrating from job to job and place to place. If institutions no longer provided a long term framework, I have had to improvise my life narrative. I also had to do without a sustained sense of self from time to time, at crisis periods; I had to find some basis, a new basis, for such a self. We all need a sustained sense of self, a sustaining life narrative, to value our experiences, to be good at something specific. The major continuity through these four epochs has been the religion I came to be associated with through my mother some fifty-four years ago at the age of nine. It has been the primary glue, so to speak. I can not prove this. It is a hypothetical like so much of life. Truths which are perennial but not archaic have been at the core of my life and sustained it—or so it seems to me as I gaze back to my first memory in 1947/8, sixty years ago.



In some ways this ideological contunity is like the continuity of place as I have experienced it since WW2. My understanding and appreciation of both the intellectual underpinnings of my religion and the sense of meaning I derive from place is much like my experience as I walk down many a city street. On many city blocks and village streets in Canada and Australia where I have spent all my life, it is possible to find groups of buildings that may span one or two hundred years of construction methods and styles. Yet they visually support and enhance each other, and in addition they provide examples of a regional culture and development. These human habitations and centres may often be as young as thirty or forty years, or even less, as they were in most of George Town, Zeehan, Katherine, South Hedland and Frobisher Bay among other towns where I lived. But they had a certain fit; they seemed to be good structures that people too care of with their endless gardens. If they had any possible contemporary use, they were also parts of the past that people tried to maintain.



For me these buildings and streets were and are not unlike the continuities, the threads, the warp and weft, of my ideological commitment, my religious communitas communitatum, that has structured my life, fitting it--however unscripted, however flawed and however ordinary my life may be—even in its darkest incoherence--with this inadequate piercing shorthand of prose and poetry which helps me negotiate the latter years of the ardent voyage that has been my life, a voyage with its unreasonable and unseasonable rains and the many long waits for that salient dove to bring the living twig.



After my years of early childhood(1944-1948), I enjoyed life as a student for nearly twenty years; for many years I enjoyed teaching, perhaps as many as thirty to thirty five, full and part-time. I don't think I was a natural teacher, but I grew into it. After several years I became successful; I became a person enjoyed by my students and enjoying them. I loved to explain things and rarely made a questioner feel stupid for asking. Although I had broad intellectual interests, my pursuit of career, familycommitments, simple lack of money and my involvement in the Bahá'í Faith left little time for other activities: I did not play golf or follow sports after the age of 21; I did not take up painting or cooking or photography or anything one could call a hobby, although I did collect stamps in my teens; I watched little TV, had no TV from 1956 to 1976, although after I retired I watched over two hours a day; I rarely went to movies, to various forms of entertainment or ate out. For 40 years I played the guitar and led sing-alongs. I joined the Bahá'í Faith with its world of meetings and outings, lounge-rooms, conferences and clusters. I went for a daily walk of about half an hour among a host of other domestic, familial and social activities that are part of the lives of fathers and husbands in the west.



I think it highly unlikely that aspects of my life will become legendary as did the lives of many a celebrity in my time. No series of iconographic images evoked from fact and fiction will ever produce a celluloid dream as has been produced for many a culture hero of these four epochs. There will be no fantastical caricature of my life with its inevitable exaggerations, bright colours and haunting themes and images created for the world of cinema and a mass audience. Mementos and mis-remembering, forms of pride and various prejudices, will never be mixed together and served up as legend to hungry fans in this or ensuing centuries. Every year hundreds, perhaps thousands, of visitors will never flock to some of the locales where I have lived. No one will ever have to locate or re-locate my legend in some tangled interweaving of history, myth and memories. The millions and billions of people in this and future centuries whose names, whose lives and memories are and will be excluded from history, will not be pulled into some vortex, some timeless world of myth and dream, legend and narrative associated with the places I have lived, my places of memory and my life's experiences. "Cinema is most akin to music, writes R.D. Crano, "insofar as it utilizes time as an elemental raw material in its sculpting of space." I could say the same about autobiography but the comparison and contrast is too complex to pursue here. Crano also makes another interesting observation about music and cinema which I will quote here for its implications for this autobiography: "they have the potential to operate in a purely anarchic mode, as a temporal phenomena comprised of heterogeneous movements and recurring motifs."



That perceptive philosopher of film Gilles Deleuze wrote that film analysis should concern itself not with criticism or judgment but with an attunement to the ‘properly rhythmic values' produced by a given body of work. I would like to apply this same idea to any analysis of this work. But what would the rhythmic values of this memoir be?



As Shakespeare has Juliet say in the play Romeo and Juliet: "What's in a name?/That which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet," a name is an artificial and meaningless convention however linked it may be to genealogy, some rite de passage such as: baptism, marriage, an affiliation in religion, politics or area of human interest. If anything about an individual life endures, if anything in that life is worth enduring, if anything goes beyond the strutting and fretting of one's hour upon life's stage, if one is to avoid the fate of being heard no more and leaving no trace even until the last syllable of one's recorded time; if life is to be more than a bad play, an illusion, a mere shadow cast by a brief candle, a vapour in the desert; if one's native hue of resolution is not to be "sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought," and as Shakespeare goes on to add: "And enterprises of great pitch and moment/ With this regard their currents turn awry/And lose the name of action" then, as Shoghi Effendi writes time and time again, we must urge on the steed of action. This steed takes so many forms both within the psyche and externally in the open field of everyday activity. One such form I described briefly in an email I sent to my son, Dan. It went like this:



I came across the following passage in a letter from Shoghi Effendi dated 19/9/48 to an individual believer. It goes like this:



"We must never dwell too much on the attitudes and feelings of our fellow-believers towards us." Feelings of isolation are often found in these thoughts we have of others, eh, Dan, among other sources? The Guardian goes on to say that: "in this way the weaknesses of human nature and the peculiarity or attitude of any particular person is not magnified, but pales into insignificance...." Easy to say but hard to put into action inside, in one's psyche, eh? I could also say the same about people's reactions to this work: does it resonate as an object of spectatorial affection? How important is it that it does?



I leave this quote and this idea with you Dan and, if I had that book I once loaned you entitled Solitude by Anthony Storr, I would loan it to you again. Always a source of lots of advice which I trust will never function as a weight on your brow.



Retail sales are down, the Ftse is up, the Hang Seng is steady and the price of gold is up.....

Dad



More generally, will a myth of our time be created, as is so often the case with any and every age, a myth with its myriad of elements, with its enormous disparity between conception and reality? Will that myth spawn an immense literature as is happening to all the ages of the past? The concern of a future time will not be with the reality of our time, the time of these four epochs, but with what people have thought and felt about that reality. This thinking, feeling and remembering will undoubtedly contribute to the myth. Myth is the stuff of the history of sensibility. One critic of contemporary Hollywood myth expressed the view that "If you can find the myth, it hasn't been hidden properly, and if it's been hidden properly, you can't find it for sure." My life has been so much wrapped up with the Bahai myth and I think I have hidden it in this long work. I have hidden it so well that the average reader will have little idea of what it is. There is some truth in this cryptic comment by this Hollywood critic. If cinematographic meaning is to be found in the shifting relations between bodies, as some analysts of cinema argue, perhaps autobiographical meaning here is to be found in the shifting relations I have created in these several 1000 pages.



Part 26:

There is, of course, myth and myth. Some students of autobiography, as I have mentioned earlier, regard self-authorship as a type of myth arising out of modern individualism and the increasingly narcissistic nature of modern Western society. It is the view of some of these analysts of autobiography that individuals are only the narrators, not the authors, of their life story. Martin Heidegger, in a book published at the very start of my pioneering journey, Being and Time, said we have two possibilities as we go through our lives. We can be the author of our own story or we can traverse life according to a script composed by others. It seems to be that like we do both.


In Habits of the Heart, Bellah and others contend that, despite contemporary popular thought on the subject, the idea of a life course must be set in a larger generational, historical and probably religious--as opposed to individualistic--context if it is to provide any richness of meaning. The authors further believe that despite the radical individualism that has achieved hegemony in universities, in middle class life and which is based on and supported by studies in the social sciences, impoverished philosophy and vacuous theology, all of our activities go on in relationships, groups, associations, and communities ordered by institutional structures and interpreted by cultural patterns of meaning. Christopher Lasch argues that our present society has carried "the logic of individualism to the extreme of a war of all against all and the pursuit of happiness to the dead end of a narcissistic preoccupation with the self."



My own take on this issue of self and community is that if one looks within oneself one should aim to find the God within and this God within helps one to see with one's own eyes and not the eyes of others. But there is a whole structure of individual and community values that is involved in cementing the individual and the community and this structure must find its basis in an individual psychology, a philosophy and a sociology of community and history. It is the task of the writer to articulate these frameworks. Scholarship by Bahá'ís on autobiography from within their community is in its infancy. Indeed, it has hardly got off the ground. When this work is subjected to students of this genre, I will be interested to see the results. By then, I am inclined to think, I will have left this mortal coil.


After countless debates and exhaustive deconstructions about my time and my age which are sure to take place in the future, it will be hard to tell what is left. A lot of talking tends to produce the experience of intellectual exhaustion. Certain images will endure for some people and define the age, the time. That imagery may be contested, may be transcendent, may be bewildering, unbending, and even beguiling. For others it will be text, print, that defines an age, a time, a person, a problem—not images. For still others it will be a combination and still others no images and no text will define the item of concern because the subject at issue will not concern them in the slightest. We can't all be concerned about the same stuff. The peculiar and compelling image, the subtle and complex text, will prod a future age to re-examine the fascinating crossroads of myth and memory. They will beckon a revisiting, yet again, of another day.



My second wife often complained, although grew to accept, that I devoted insufficient time to my marriage and to shared activity together. In my retirement this changed a little—for the positive—as we came to spend three or four hours together every day. It is perhaps a matter of personal taste whether one attributes my drive first as a student, then as a teacher and finally as a writer and as a Bahá'í to personal ego or a genuine commitment to my various roles, roles to learn, to educate and inspire people about learning and to serve the Cause and my writing. Undoubtedly there were elements of all these motivations present at different stages of my life-span. Retirement also brought a greater element of control over my life. Parents, teachers, employers and students had a great deal to say about my life until about the age of sixty. Then the only person I had to please to any significant extent was my wife and, by the age of sixty, I had that worked out, if not entirely to her satisfaction, at least enough to provide the basis for a household harmony and tranquillity so that I could get on with what had become the passion of my life—writing and reading. As the poet Seneca wrote: Otium sine litteris mors est et hominis vivi sepultra: ~ Leisure without literature is death, or rather the burial of a living man.



I once thought that autobiography meant being able to write without artifice, but I'd like to think any thoughtful observer of this writer will see a certain cunning, game, play, everywhere. That is what I'd like to think. The geography of my book circles and doubles with long footnotes to take the spread of thought. Why footnotes? As Martin Amis writes in his autobiography that footnotes "preserve the collateral thought." In fact, the whole thing is a lattice of collateral." Like Amis, too, I must confess to having compiled this work with one eye on a remote and exacting audience: posterity. And if not the whole eye, then part of the eye, perhaps the retina or the aqueous humour or the eye brows. But at least the job got done before the body gave way, as the philosopher Paul Feyerband's did. He became paralyzed and had to finish his autobiography from an unfortunate bed-ridden state. Other writers become paralysed with the thought of using the first person: a serious dilemma for an autobiographer. I, too, was reticent to use the first person for the first two decades as I toyed initially with this autobiography. But eventually I found a voice, a voice I was comfortable with. I also found a format that attempted to create what I think is a happy balance between the routine and the banal on the one hand and aphoristic nuggets and sustained analysis on the other. I leave it to readers to assess whether I achieved this balance.



The profession of writer has recently acquired something of the roles of travelling salesman and repertory actor. As I gaze back over the half a century(1949-1999) before I took up writing full time I feel as if I acquired or took part in these roles through the mediums of several spheres of major activity: student, teacher, Bahá'í pioneer and a multitude of geographic, status, career, employment, community and marital situations. Full time writers are often engaged in an endless succession of book festivals and literary conferences which take them round the globe, all of which adds to an air of unreality and stimulus, with books alone being the hub around which their existence revolves. I, too, went around the globe, or at least from one end in the north to the other end in the south, with books being a critical hub of my life. Book festivals were for me programs on the radio.



If I experienced any unreality it was due to a range of factors but attending literary conferences and book festivals was not among those factors. From time to time and partly due to my bi-polar disability I experienced that unspeakable penalty or affliction in which I felt that my whole being had been exerted toward accomplishing nothing. But, insensibly and as the decades wore on, I knew that this feeling, when and if it arose, was transient and that in a few hours at most it would disappear.



As my early sixties advanced from year to year I withdrew increasingly, almost entirely, from the society of those about me and gave myself up to a wondrous study of writing and reading. In many ways, my reading in the first six decades of my life was far from as deep as I would have liked it to be but there was so much else going on in my life that I was unable to achieve the depth that I wanted. With the early years of late adulthood I have been able to both read and write more, much more, at last to my satisfaction. I am conscious of William Hazlitt's cautionary note that often, if one reads more, one thinks less. Perhaps that notion just provided me with an easy way to excuse myself. I find that concentrated and extensive reading seems to come second to writing and the innumerable odds-and-ends of life. It is true for me, as it was for Hazlitt, that I try most earnestly to cultivate the habit of thinking. I detest nothing so much as servile imitation, affectation and their loathsome odour. I can feel that creep when it comes into my writing and, wishing to think and feel for myself, I try to stamp it out. If I have not drunk deep, hopefully I have at least been an expert taster who makes serendipitous connections.



This reading and writing does not take place in a vacuum. I continue my role of activist, but I play the role differently than I did in the first forty years of my adult life. As someone who surmounted the educational hurdles that kept previous generations in my family solidly working class, I became a credentialed worker, a professional who experienced considerable autonomy and intrinsic worker satisfaction from the 1960s to the 1990s. And now that paid-labour of the day does not occupy me as it did for decades, nor does raising a family, nor going to meetings and engaging so frequently in social and community activities, I can write and place the products of my efforts at thousands of internet sites with literally millions of my words. Although a critical observer might see and say that I was simply blowing my own horn, I was blowing the Bahá'í horn, so to speak. This occupied me virtually all my waking hours.



There were many who blew the horn that I blew, albeit differently shaped, different sizes and styles, but many ordinary people and many thinkers and intellectuals, writers and social scientists blew many of the tunes I was trying to blow both in my autobiography and in other works. Fernand Braudel, for example, of the French annales school, recognised the justice of the sociologist Raymond Aron's observation that 'the phase of civilisations is coming to an end, and for good or ill humanity is embarking on a new phase.' That phase is one of a single civilisation which could become universal. I don't want to list and comment, quote and analyse, all those who share this global, one world perspective. Suffice it to say, it was a horn which as the epochs advanced was blown by more and more serious students of history's longue duree. Some of these students had a grand interpretation of history, a meganarrative, along the lines pursued by Oswald Spengler, H. G. Wells or Arnold Toynbee. And some did not. Much of the discussion remains nebulous and unsatisfactory. The story, the blowing, is far from over.



Part 27:

My years of worrying about the success of my three children and whether they too would enjoy the benefits of education in their professional lives that I enjoyed; whether they were happy in their single or married lives and whether my step-grandchildren were winning their races or successful at school, were for the most part over by the time I entered my early sixties. My wife tended to take care of the worry department in these areas and she did a better job of providing care, therapy and advice when needed to these importn at people in my affinal family. The messages of conformity and obedience, of working hard to achieve occupational achievement and self-satisfaction, were important patterns in my children's lives and the lives of my grandchildren as they were in mine in my youth and adulthood in the last several decades. Although all was not smooth in their lives, they did not give me much to worry about as they went on with their lives as busy as beavers with their: careers, domestic lives, leisure interests and, of course, the inevitable slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. This subject could occupy many more pages and perhaps it will in some future revised edition of this autobiography; the members of my immediate affinal family each have their own story and, when looked at in detail, is as long as your proverbial arm--to say nothing of the consangineal family I left behind me in Canada some forty years ago.



I should add here, parenthetically, that I, too, worked hard. Perhaps such a remark goes without saying given the general Bahai ehtos; perhaps my inner drive was due partly to my insecurities and my knowing that my achievements never came easily. Perhaps my relentless pursuit of the high goals I set myself was part of my bi-polar disorder. Perhaps the origins of my ambitious tendency were to be found in my early childhood and my relationships with hard working parents and a conscientious family in general. Perhaps a detailed explanation of the Price and Cornfield family fortunes over time, over previous generations might uncover some explanation for the ardour and effort that characterized my life.



The foundation of the two family-trees in my consangineal family, Price and Cornfield, going back centuries is virtually unknown to me before the late 19th century. In the last quarter of the 19th century each family occupied the upper regions of the lower class or the lower regions of the middle class. The recounting of the ups and downs of the generations in these two families, generations I have known something about, is beyond the scope of my knowledge or the purposes of this autobiography as I have come to conceive it. The canvas I paint is broad but it is, for the most part, rooted in subjects I know a good deal about. Readers will find some discussion of my family tree in this autobiography but, on the whole, very little outside those members I actually met and got to know well--and, even then, I devote relatively little to the array of people in this final category of those I have known well.



"History," wrote the historian R.G. Collingwood, "is the science of res gestae" and res gestae are the actions of human beings, actions that have been done in the past. The first time in the western tradition that we come across this term res gentae is with the emperor Augustus in 14 AD. It is inscribed on his mausoleum. It is a memorial of his achievements. It is a type of official, abbreviated autobiography. This autobiography is no memorial to my achievements; it is more general commentary on a life,a religion and a society.

Autobiography, then, to follow the historian Collingwood's lead, is my own actions in the past. "History," Collingwood went on, "is for human self-knowledge. Knowing yourself means knowing what you can do; and since nobody knows what he can do until he tries, the only clue to what man can do is what man has done. The value of history, then, is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is." "All history is the history of thought," Collingwood continues, "in so far as human actions are mere events, the historian cannot understand them; strictly, he cannot even ascertain that they have happened. They are only knowable to him as the outward expression of inward thoughts." All this is certainly true, a fortiori, of autobiography, of this autobiography.

The history of my thought and action is the re-enactment of that past thought and action in my own mind. My autobiography is a continuous process of interaction between myself and the facts of my life, an unending dialogue between my present and my past. I am, in the words of another historian E.H. Carr, just another dim figure trudging along, but the point at which I find myself in this trudging procession determines my angle of vision and just how dim or how sharp that vision is over the past. In addition, as autobiographer, I am not dredging up everything only what I see as relevant. A good many people simply want to know about the past, my past and my view of things for the emotional or intellectual satisfaction I might provide. The line between comment and opinion is increasingly becoming blurred in newspapers and in the electronic media. Often, the fewer the facts the stronger the opinions. About my life, I have all too many facts and, as I get older, the diversity of opinion I bring to my life, my society and my religion, I find requires the use of outside authorities and experts to provide balance, some fact-checking, some external perspective.



The extent to which an autobiographer fulfills the useful social function of helping people know something better, to that extent does he contribute to the complex of non-practical activities which make up the culture of a society. When and if I stimulate and satisfy the imagination of my readers, I do not differ essentially from the poet or artist. There is an emotional satisfaction of a high order to be gained from extending the comprehending intelligence of people to include elements of the past. Like all rational activities, the study, the reading, of a well written autobiography, an autonomous enterprise and activity in itself, can contribute to the improvement of man. It does so by seeking the truth within the confines of its particular province and that province is the rational reconstruction of the past.



I do not want to dwell excessively on the middle class psychology, either in its individual or collective expression, that played in the centre and at the fringes of my life as an adult since the mid-sixties. Nor do I want to place here a political analysis, an analysis that took society from a politics of the left in the sixties and seventies and then to the right in the following twenty years. Even though my adult life was lived with this psychological and political background, I feel I have alluded to these themes enough in the previous mountain of words. I have drawn here on one of the better analyses of my culture and my class, my status group and its values and beliefs, an analysis that was first published in 1989, just as I was about to complete my last decade of professional employment as a teacher.



Like Gustave Flaubert, the originator of the modern novel who spent much of his life in one house and a great deal of that time in one room I, too, spend much of my time now in a room in a house in the oldest town in Australia at the end of the Tamar River in northern Tasmania. Only the occasional Bahá'í activity, family interchange, conversation with a friend, daily interaction with my wife and the inevitable trips to town to shop, to put up posters and to go the library and attend to the several domestic activities that are part of life for everyman took me into the social domain. I had come to see life more as an affair of solitude diversified by company than an affair of company diversified by solitude. For fifty years(1954-2004) it had been the other way around.



With early retirement the tables and the millennium had slowly been turning. As they turned I slowly approached the heartland of my story across the familiar slopes of my earthly life, its actions and thoughts. I tell my story in a way which gives me an invigorating sense of briskness and phrase-relishing. As the epochs advanced I had an increasing and an insatiable spirit of activity. By the fifth epoch the spirit was channelled virtually in its entirety into a sedentary and literary life. In the process I defined my world. I hope readers enjoy my definition and the way I go about putting it together. Like Johnson's dictionary 250 years ago, it is an ambitious work. But whether it will influence generations as Johnson's work did, I can only hope. He wrote to escape the pain of life; I wrote to escape society's endless chat with which I had grown fatigued and to write which was my pleasure.



Part 28:

I write, too, because of life's very familiarity which one writer called life's ‘soul fat.' Familiarity insulates and cushions, dockets the uncanny, translates every tomorrow into a rerun of yesterday. It is an anodyne not be scorned, but to be appreciated because it helps us negotiate our world through the hostile and the unexpected. Familiarity populates our world with hints of habituation, reassures us with bulletins about the déjà vu and the deja vecu, resists novelty with patterns and conventions that both predate and outlive us. This autobiography is an extended raid on the familiar in order to make it unfamiliar, renewed, fresh. In this I only partly succeed. For being cushioned and insulated from reality by familiarity's layering of fat has its comforts and gives life a certain ease amidst the reruns. I try not to promise more than I deliver as I survey this territory of the familair and in promising little perhaps, hopefully, I will deliver more.



An autobiography, like a novel, stands between us and the hardening concept of statistical man. "There is no other medium," said William Golding when he received his Nobel Prize in Literature in 1983, "in which we can live for so long and so intimately with a character." That is the service both an autobiography and a novel renders. Golding went on to say: "It performs no less an act than the rescue and the preservation of the individuality and dignity of the single being, be it man, woman or child. No other art, I claim, can so thread in and out of a single mind and body--and so live another life. It does ensure that at the very least a human being shall be seen to be more than just one billionth of one billion.."



If the potential reader is not interested in what I have preserved here he need not read my work, need not pick it up. He is free to stop at any juncture. I hope that this work is not just a humdrum inventory of personal recollections that attempt to encourage the disinclined reader. I hope, too, that it is not just a series of casually scanned or, like Flaubert's novels, savagely chosen details in a frozen gel of chosenness." Pioneering Over Four Epochs is a portmanteau of personal history, the Bahá'í Faith and endless opinionizing; it is a pinata of literary references and a galimaufery of stuff that I try to beat into shape with the stick in/of my brain--sometimes successfully, sometimes not. This work is an entire province, a country rich in ideas, a structure built of my pioneering life, my predicaments, my joys, my solitudes and my despairs but, most importantly for me, this memoir is more monument than personal memorial, monument to the unity and civility, the universal and sensitive, the ethos and the ethical orientation, the morally preoccupied, embryonic community I have been a part of for over half a century.



Many are concerned at the pulverizing of society into a sandheap of individual atomizing particles each claiming their natural and sovereign rights. We could call this group conservatives with their concern for the inevitable arrival of collectivist nationalism. For the conservative, individual freedom lies in the interstices of social and moral authority. Think of the great cultural efflorescences of the 5th century B.C. in Athens, of 1st century, Augustan Rome, of the 13th century in Europe, of the Age of Louis XIV, and Elizabethan England. One and all these were ages of social and moral order, powerfully supported by moral codes and political statutes.



The Aeschyluses, Senecas, Roger Bacons, Molieres, and Shakespeares flourished in ages of social and moral order, powerfully supported by moral codes and political statutes. Far from feeling oppressed by the hierarchical authority all around him, Shakespeare, about whose copious individuality there surely cannot be the slightest question, is the author of the memorable passage that begins with "Take but degree away, untune that string, and hark! what discord follows; each thing meets in mere oppugnancy."



It might be noted finally that the greatest literary presences thus far to appear in the twentieth century Western culture have nearly all been votaries of tradition and cultural authority. Eliot, Pound, Joyce, Yeats, and others all gave testimony to authority in poem, essay and novel, and all, without exception, saw the eventual death of Western culture proceeding from annihilation of this authority in the names of individualism and of freedom. Writers and artists, creative types of all kinds, in the late twentieth century do their work in the freest air the imagination and the rational faculty have ever breathed, while composing their literary works. But it is apparent from the wretched mess of narcissism, self-abuse, self-titillation, and juvenile, regressive craving for the scatological and obscene that the atmosphere has become so rarefied as to have lost its oxygen.



Part 29:

It is not liberty but chaos and license which, conservatives would and do say, comes to dominate when moral and social authorities: those of family, neighborhood, local community, job, and religion, have lost their appeal to human beings.



It was strong social and moral authority these creative minds were living under not the oppressive, political-bureaucratic, limitless, invasive, totalitarian governments of the twentieth century. Another group, call them libertarians if you like, in which the coercions of family, church, local community and school seem almost as inimical to freedom as those of the political government. The gulf between libertarians and conservatives seems to be widening.



The Cause is going to need pioneers for many generations to come. As I have been writing this lengthy statement of my pioneering experience I have often felt that my story is but one of the first to make it onto paper from the generations beginning in 1937. Some narratives, some genres, like westerns and gangster stories, are dead or are dieing out. The political agenda changes with the seasons, although some problems seem to be perennial. My father used to say "there is always trouble in the Middle East." When the news came on and he was in his latter years, he would leave the room muttering about the endless warfare in Israel. That was in 1960. Nearly fifty years later the story is the same. And the historian AJP Taylor said it was wisest never to have an opinion about the Middle East. The pioneer, in its many forms, has a long life ahead of it and a long life behind it. Opinions about the pioneer, in some ways, have just begun.



Since literature takes as its subject all human experience, and particularly the ordering, interpreting, and articulating of experience, it is no accident that the most varied literary projects find instruction in the great mass of literature and its history and that the results of these projects are relevant to thinking about literature. What is true for literature, is also true for the other arts, such as painting and film and—autobiography. Within this great mass of literature, metaphor always plays a crucial role in autobiographical self-recognition and self-creation since it provides a ready means of perceiving order in an otherwise inchoate experience. The voyage paradigm or metaphor is used time and again in the history of western autobiography. At the close of the only Latin novel to survive, the poet Apuleius writes: "You have endured and performed many labours and withstood the buffetings of all the winds of ill luck. Now at last you have put into the harbour of peace.... Neither your noble blood and rank nor your education sufficed to keep you from falling a slave to pleasure.... But blind fortune, after tossing you maliciously about from peril to peril has somehow . . . landed you here in religious felicity."



This work of nearly 2000 years ago could very well apply to me and my life, at least in some major dimensions before I, too, landed in a region of religious felicity. The metaphor of journey as travelled by others has its applications to my trip as well.


The reader should also keep in mind as he reads this work that there is what autobiographers calls the interstitial self—the self that emerges in life's multitude of interstices, some in discourse, others in private. Sometimes this interstitial self emerges only for a moment to deal with and negotiate a conflict, a particular point in a relationship, indeed, many of life's especial situations. Sometimes the person is unaware of some of his interstitial selves. He is drawn back into familiar territory where there is a more stable position, a more familiar self and his interstitial self disappears as fast as it came into being. At other times, this interstitial self is grasped as a way to escape the restrictive discourses that so often arise in social life. In addition to this interstitial self there is another conventional autobiographical term, the hybrid self. This is a self that can be seen as shifting among positions and discourses, sometimes combining them into a true hybrid. At other times I am very aware of the contradictions and contradictory situations in life and that I must maintain quite separate and independent discourses, languages, so to speak, of the self. Then there is the unfound self, a self that seems unfindable. It took me 19 years(1984-2003) to finally find a voice that spoke to me of me so that I could write this autobiography in a satisfactory way. Beginnings are often difficult for novelists and autobiographers. People think of writing their story or some story for years but may, in the end, never pick up their pen. I shall say no more on what can be a complex subject, the subject of selves. But it is an important aspect for readers to consider as they delve into this autobiography.



Readers need to keep in mind G.K. Chesterton's turn of phrase in his discussion of the future of Charles Dickens' writings. Chesterton notes that there are a number of important factors which ensure the immortality of a man. "The chief of them," he adds, "is the unquestionable fact that if they write an enormous amount of bad work they are well on the way to immortality." This may lead a man to being put below his place in his own time, but it does not affect his permanent place, to all appearance, at all. Shakespeare, for instance, and Wordsworth wrote not only an enormous amount of bad work, but an enormous amount of enormously bad work." Some of the feedback I have received in the three years since I finished the 3rd edition of this work would indicate that what I have written is just that, an enormously bad work. So, perhaps, my immortality is assured, at least if Chesterton is onto something here.



Chesterton goes on to say in his discussion of the future of Dickens' writings that it is the very exaggeration of his characters that will immortalize him. The realistic narrators of their time are all forgotten, but the exaggerators live on. Chesterton sites the example of Homer and his characters in the Iliad and Odyssey. I might add the example of the Bab and Bahaullahh's writings which to a western ear and the moderate tones of the stiff upper-lip of the English literary tradition, often seem exaggerated. My own work, sadly, aiming as it does for realism, factual detail and accuracy of circumstance, will probably pass through the wings of time and be no more substance than the eye of a dead ant as the Bab wrote. I have not sufficiently exaggerated my story.



Chesterton has left me with some hope for a place in posterity's literary home. Chesterton also felt that those writers with a poetic inclination had a greater future than those without. So, perhaps, in the end, my poetry will save a place for me in the rooms of the future amidst their lush or not-so-lush furnishings. Among these furnishings, perhaps on the walls, will be the carefully arranged portraits of my emotional credentials, my intellectual and psychological interests, indeed, a whole gallery of stuff. It is difficult to see what value all these gallery pieces will have but their association with a new Faith which claims to be the emerging religion on this planet will give them a significance I can scarcely appreciate at this early hour.



Part 30:

A person is not simply determined and dominated by the pressures of any overarching discourse or ideology such as the secular pluralism in which we as citizens of western democracies are immersed. We are all, I believe, the agents of our own personal discernment capable of identifying and interpreting society's dominant discourse in order to insert ourselves into it or confront and resist it. The dominant cultural forces within our world do not take away our free will--entirely. But just as Darwinism and the Civil War shattered the psyches of Americans living in the last 40 years of the nineteenth century(1863-1903) and two great wars and the holocaust(1914-1945) shattered the psyches of those living in the twentieth century. We in the last half of the 20th century and the early 21st have all of this shattering of the social and psychological ethos of our times behind us and an entirely new crop of traumas to add their bewildering and deranging affects.



There cannot be any doubt at all that my own literary corpus can not be appreciated apart from the influences of my age. In an attempt to sketch the course of my literary endeavours it would be futile to detach their succession from the experiences of my personal life, largely determined, as they were, by the revolutionary changes of my time, by other changes in the condition of both Canada and Australia where I have lived, developments in the religion I have been associated with and in the various intellectual shifts and alterations in the multitude of centres around the world.



The probing of 'Canadianness' or ‘Australianness' turns out to be a puzzling and somewhat brain-racking exercise in my pioneer situation. But all is not puzzle and probe for the brain. Much of the contemplation is enriching and interesting for the psyche. In the end, too, there is a balance between this national identification and a local as well as an international level of experience and analysis.


The world I have grown up in, at least since Norman Vincent Peale wrote what was arguably the first modern self-help book in 1937, has grown accustomed to the standard victim-recovery cycle of modern self-help books. Part of pop-psychology, one of the many substitutes for religion in my time, the self-help genre can not be found in the text of this book. Like Proust's masterpiece, I like to think my work is edifying precisely because my struggle goes on and on and just changes its form as the years go on. Unlike Proust, I do get better from the illnesses that dot my life. I may not get totally cured; the battle of life may change its form and content; I often blame or am tempted to blame others for my problems; I do not welcome suffering, as Proust seems to do, as an opportunity for thinking up fresh ideas and for entering into a richer relationship with experience. But once it has come and gone I welcome the insights that come in its train.



An interesting question that Erich Fromm raises in his book The Art of Listening(1994) has to do with what we regard as the maximum of suffering which is in each of us; or as William James put it in his Varieties of Religion Experience(1900) what are the limits of our sacrificial propensities. At the age of 69 I feel that my capacity has been approached many times in the last seven decades. I know to a significant extent what I can and can not do; I can see the edge approaching but, unless I have some advance warning, I still fall off. Having reached my limit, I still plunge into the abyss if I take too much on. Too much now is quite easily defined as too much social interaction



Part 31:

W. H. Auden once alluded to the secretary-general of the UN, Dag Hammarskjöld’s inner sense of a messianic, sacrificial mission. This sense of mission was something Auden seems to have recognized as a version of the messianic fantasy to which he had himself been tempted. Auden says he was tempted by his youthful fame as a revolutionary left-wing poet. Auden had been Hammarskjöld’s candidate for the Nobel Prize, and Hammarskjold was widely expected to win it in 1964. Soon after Hammarskjöld’s executors and friends saw Auden’s typescript, his endorsement, Auden was visited by a Swedish diplomat who hinted that the Swedish Academy would be unhappy if that endorsement were printed in its present form. They advised that he should, or could, revise his statement. Auden ignored the hint, and seems to have mentioned the incident only once, when he went to dinner with his friend Lincoln Kirstein the same evening and said, “There goes the Nobel Prize.” The prize went to Jean-Paul Sartre, who refused it.

I mention the above since I, too, have experienced the feeling, possessed the desire, to occupy a sacrificial role in my work for the Bahá'í Cause. This was especially true in my younger years, but is not true any more. Auden was disgusted by his early fame because he saw both the mixed motives behind his image of public virtue, and the gratification he felt in being idolized and admired. He felt degraded when asked to pronounce on political and moral issues about which, he reminded himself, artists had no special insight. Far from imagining that artists were superior to anyone else, he had seen in himself that artists have their own special temptations toward power and cruelty and their own special skills at masking their impulses from themselves. Roger White pointed this out in his prose and his poetry.

In 1939 Auden left England for America, partly to escape his own public status. Six months later, after making a speech at a political meeting, he wrote to a friend: "I suddenly found I could really do it, that I could make a fighting demagogic speech and have the audience roaring. It is so exciting but so absolutely degrading; I felt just covered with dirt afterwards." Auden had thought of the love he had once felt for a younger man had been infected by libido dominandi, a lust for the power to transform that man into someone else. This was a temptation that everyone experienced, but artists, Auden thought, were especially susceptible to it. He said in a lecture on Shakespeare’s sonnets a few years later: “Art may spill over from creating a world of language into the dangerous and forbidden task of trying to create a human being.” Whatever desires I had in this regard, my 18 years as a student and another 32 years as a teacher cured me of any desire to create another human being. By the age of 70, when I came to write these words, I was more than a little aware of the potential influence one could have on another human being both positively, negatively and with a total indifference of others to oneself. Creating other human beings moves the student, the observer, the enthusiast, into the area of socialization, mentoring and modeling. This is another world unto itself with libraries of books on the subjects.

A writer who addresses a plural audience claims to seek, if not deserve, their collective attention. He must present himself as the great modernists—Yeats, Joyce, Eliot, Pound—more or less seriously presented themselves, as visionary pioneers and cultural authorities, artist-heroes setting an agenda for their time and their nation. This was not Auden. In an age when writers as different as Hemingway and Eliot encouraged their public to admire them as heroic explorers of the mind and spirit, Auden preferred to err in the opposite direction, by presenting himself as less than he was. In contrast, a writer who addresses an individual reader presents himself as someone expert in his métier but in every other way equal with his reader, having no moral authority or special insight on anything beyond his art. Virginia Woolf, who thought much as Auden did about these matters, rebuked her readers for accepting an unequal relation with authors: "In your modesty you seem to consider that writers are of different blood and bone from yourselves; that they know more of Mrs Brown than you do. Never was there a more fatal mistake. It is this division between reader and writer, this humility on your part, these professional airs and graces on ours, that corrupt and emasculate the books which should be the healthy offspring of a close and equal alliance between us." I find myself in both camps. I see myself as heroic explorer and visionary pioneer on the one hand, but very much persuaded by Auden and Woolf, and it is for this reason that I mention Auden and Woolf here. I have a foot in both worlds, but am not entirely in either.

Part 32:

I make no claim to moral or personal authority and, like Auden, I place himself firmly on one side of an argument that pervades the modern intellectual climate but is seldom explicitly stated, an argument about the nature of evil and those who commit it. On one side are those who, like Auden, sense the furies hidden in themselves, evils they hope never to unleash, but which, they sometimes perceive, add force to their ordinary angers and resentments, especially those angers they prefer to think are righteous. On the other side are those who can say of themselves without irony, “I am a good person,” who perceive great evils in other, evil people whose motives and actions are entirely different from my own. This view has dangerous consequences when a party or nation, having assured itself of its inherent goodness, assumes its actions are therefore justified, even when, in the eyes of everyone else, they seem murderous and oppressive. For an excellent discussion of the above topic go to the New York Review of Books, 20 March 2014 and an article entitled The Secret Auden by Edward Mendelson.

I like to think, though, that if any of this memoir is some form of self-help to others, I am offering it in the form of a quasi-manual, a semi-philosophical guide for the intelligent person. If self-help there be here, I hope it is a welcome departure from the usual bellyaching, angsting and endless expressions of concern. ''Our best chance of contentment,'' Proust writes ''lies in taking up the wisdom offered to us in coded form through our coughs, allergies, social gaffes and emotional betrayals. If we can also avoid the ingratitude of those who blame the peas, the bores, the time and the weather, then some degree of contentment may be ours.'' Following the inevitable nine, seven or five steps of those self-help books may also help, I say with tongue in cheek. The world is awash with self-help books and, after half a century immersed in their contents, I am now somewhat fatigued by all this quasi-wisdom literature.



For some, especially writers, language itself is the primary arena within which the shattering experiences of life are coped with and the individual assertivenss and agency becomes manifest from behind the angst. For writers talk is more important than action, indeed talk itself is action because words determine thoughts and actions. "Language... is the parent, and not the child, of thought.... Men are the slaves of words." This may have been true of the philosopher Kant whom posterity caricatured as a man "who was all thought and no life" or "a man who neither had a life nor a history." I've come to the view that thought and action, two of the major facets of our lives, can not be separated. The practical and the mystic have become one in our day.



My journey is not only the core and central thread of my life story; it is also the recurrent and most enduring principle of my life. Nowhere, throughout the narrative, will one encounter a complacently ensconced pioneer. I have been a migratory and volatile spirit which has sprung out of the most established and rooted position in a conservative Canadian consciousness. I have often been beaten down by circumstances, depressed by body chemistry and situations, called by that curious combination of sorrow and a strange desolation of hope into a quietness, but complacency has not been a quality I have battled with—although I must say that complacency sounds restful and not unattractive after some of life's other battles I have had to contend with.



My resistance to the dominant mores of my time has been articulated, made public, and critiqued in several textual identities of which this autobiography is one. My discernment, my autonomy, my sense of personal agency is manifest, it seems to me, in this very writing. This writing is both the site and symbol of my resistance to the dominant ideology of my time and its major cultural manifestations. This resistance takes place with the aid of the great power of retrospect and hindsight and gives to much of life's messiness an order and shape. In the end, though, much is messiness, for not all of thought is ordered, tidy and logically sequential.



If I give to my life artistic form, spiritual vision and design in retrospect; if I discover a more profound truth in the context of this vision than an unfertilized collection of facts could deliver, I understand that is part of a design-imposed, meaning-making, process that I give to my life. Perhaps a great deal of what has happened to me is fate, destiny, a certain predestination. Such was the view Henry James took of his life when he wrote his autobiography in the evening of his life. There is little doubt of the importance of fate from a Bahá'í perspective. I wish I could say in this context that my sentences had a quality of stunning exactitude, lyricism and comedy, an aphoristic concision but, alas, style is not a quality bestowed on me as it was on Flaubert. Perhaps this is because I have not been willing to work at it as obsessively as he over many decades. But I have made a start.



I wish I could also say, too, that I possessed the kind of grand and exuberant personality that the great twentieth century literary critic William Empson is reputed to have possessed. Such a personality would have been handy in so many of the social situations in life. So much of life has been social. That refined, sophisticated, and erudite scholar with his great reckless energy for life, with his willingness to throw his entire self into the interpretation and criticism of literature, William Empson had an energy and passion that informed his critical work and served to renew in the common reader a sense that there is some literature that can matter deeply to all and any of us. Alas, although I shared Empson's energy it did not result in any literary erudition in my case; although, like Empson, I threw myself into my academic life in varying degrees with some success over half a century, I never made it to the major leagues. My destiny was to be a minor poet in the minor leagues. But I enjoyed playing poetic-ball in a small town in the minors. If you love playing ball part of you does not care where.



Part 33:

I was certainly not in the same league as Empson, arguably one of the three greatest literary critics in the last several hundred years; although we both had sexual proclivities and desires which, in the case of Empson, seemed to result in great notoriety. I had certainly experienced shame, fear and guilt in relation to my sexual urges and activities, among other sources of shame. Fear of exposure was very real and, after my young adulthood, I was not able to share my concerns with anyone except my wife. These were battles I fought, for the most part, on my own. Being honest about my failures in the sexual domain was virtually an impossible thing to do outside my immediate marital relationship. There simply was not the context, the relationship for such a degree of intimacy or confessionalism. And my religious values did not encourage such confessionalism.



People like myself write always, as Virginia Woolf puts it, "of the doings of the mind; the thoughts that come to it; its noble plans; how the mind has civilized the universe. They show it ignoring the body in the philosophers' turret. Those great wars which the body wages with the mind a slave to it, in the solitude of the bedroom against the assault of fever or the onset of melancholia, are neglected. Nor is the reason far to seek. To look these things squarely in the face would need the courage of a lion tamer; a robust philosophy; a reason rooted in the bowels of the earth." I think in this two thousand five hundred page series of volumes I have shown some of the courage of a lion tamer; I have shown some of the robustness in my philosophy and some of reason's bowels. I leave it to readers to judge how much.


These doings of the mind in the catalogue of my diverse writings, in a steadily accumulating and interacting body of enthusiasms with their ever-intensifying interplay of nuance is, I think, my real autobiography. The battles of my emotions in the lion tamers' cage is yet another autobiography and one did not keep me away from God as many such battles do to others. My sense of unworthiness seemed instrumental in drawing me closer to God, to appreciating His forgiveness, something I was assured of over and over again by Bahá'u'lláh. I had right desire, but possessed wayward appetites, a sort of contagion of the lower self, part of an inward war made of thin but tough veils, battles which I often lost, susceptibilities of conscience which were simply not strong enough. I was not willing, or so it seemed, to burn the bridges across which certain sins continually came. In a world like this, in the darkest hours before the dawn, I was confident I had much company, company that ran into the millions—if not billions—in my sins of omission or commission.

Alcohol was never a problem for me as it was for Empson. Comparisons with others, of course, are sometimes useful but, as the cliché goes, comparisons are often odious. Autobiography's ultimate purpose, Henry James felt, was to fix the self for all time, to put forth the idea that the autobiographer matters and that his life is significant in the supposed order of things. I certainly like to think my life matters, that it has meaning in the ultimate scheme of things, that in writing this autobiography I am not merely imposing form on chaos, that all that I think is not merely an exercise in subjectivity, that my life is not so deeply private as to be beyond scientific scrutiny, that it derives its importance from factors beyond that which is unsystematic, even chaotic, uncommunicable and emotional in life.

Part 34:

There is no reason why this account of my brief life, stretching as it now does over more than 70 years, should give extra emphasis to my sins of omission and commission. I could dwell on many acts and events making, in the process, ludicrously strenuous efforts to make my life look as bad a spossible and certainly better than this present account which puts my best foot foreward.

The scientific domain contains an important element of subjectivity and total objectivity is always impossible. One of the key elements of science is that it exists in, indeed generates, a community, a framework, of interpretation. Indeed, the scientist can only function within such a community. That is also true, at least in some ways, for this autobiographer. The community in question for me is the Bahá'í community and, more generally, the human community.



What makes my work scientific is that I am engaged in a "conscious, explicit organization of knowledge and experience." I am not just engaged in making true statements. One can do this in any quiz or game like trivial pursuit. Proof, in scientific terms and in autobiography, "means nothing more than the total process by which we render a statement more acceptable than its negation." An important caveat here is that the convictions I bring to this exercise, my feelings of certitude, indeed much that I might call tentative hypotheses for example, are part of a psychological state not part of my knowledge. Certitude can often be had with no knowledge at all and hypotheses are things anyone can make. Our emotions organize themselves around our convictions and become part of our way of life. This is one's faith, one's religion. And we all have a religion in this sense; there exists around this religion or faith a theoretical uncertainty and it exists for all of us. Such is some of the intellectual orientation, some of my foundation view, that I take to this autobiography.



Nothing convinces an artist more of the arbitrariness of the means to which he resorts to attain a goal, to assert this autonomy, however permanent it may be, than the creative process itself, the process of composition. The creative self, the source of this process, is a society of perishing occasions or selves and the context is an aesthetic one. The writer's task is to develop a coherent system of ideas by which every item of his experience can be interpreted. The fundamental building blocks of nature are not bits of passive, inert, dead matter, but momentary unities of experience, actual entities which are involved in a creative advance into novelty. Such was Whitehead's way of looking at the process. Although I have never been a serious student of Whitehead's I have been broadly aware of his views for forty years.



Verse really does, in Akhmatova's words, grow from rubbish among other things. To express this same idea more elegantly, one could say that verse grows out of slime the same way as a lotus flower. The roots of prose are no more honorable. But there in the roots can also be found faith and thought--the lotus flower's embryo. Without faith and thought no society can long endure and without a common humanity and a practical basis for world order appalling catastrophe threatens to engulf humanity.



As this autobiography has come to take form increasingly since I began writing it over twenty years ago, I have felt a measure of literary and psychological power and humility. Perhaps this is partly due to the fact that self-narrative is a tool used to gain self-determinacy. This work is also partly an illness narrative, partly a salvation narrative, partly a travel narrative, as autobiographers often call these sub-genres, and partly an act of becoming and re-becoming. Through self-narration I partly re-make myself, re-fashion and re-invent a new understanding of myself. With this story I try to resist the several disabling definitions that could label my life and so to write myself into/with a rhetorical normalcy. Narrative is used as a tool, a technology, that is intended to be a vehicle to freedom, self-definition, and self-expression. Unlike some writers, I have no obsession with being taken seriously. What consumes many words of many writers in an attempt to be taken seriously, consumes little of mine. I have not set this work before the public with the confidence, still less the complacency, of an established master. This book belongs to my middle and late adulthood. I had no reputation to defend, indeed, I was hardly known anywhere except by coteries so small and insignificant that it might be wondered why I bothered to write this work at all.



Part 35:

In some ways this book is a valediction to my international overseas pioneering experience as a formative event in my life and the lives of the many international pioneers. When an event ends, its history begins. The end of my venture is not yet, but it certainly feels like the beginning of the end or, as Churchill once said, the end of the beginning. As a project, this writing is understandably tinged with nostalgia, but that is a price I don't mind paying for what happens with greater intensity when I write. Most works of history are generated by some personal experience and intellectual debate would be more fruitful if historians admitted from the beginning that they were writing, at least in part, about themselves. As autobiographer I have no problem with such an admission. By placing my own experience within my work there is an honesty in my attempt to understand myself and the world with which I deal. There is also a kind of parallel between the traveller, the pioneer, writing retrospectively to give shape and meaning to his experience, and the historian giving shape and meaning not only to his own intellectual travels but to the part of the story of history that he writes.



Autobiographies, and certainly the one I am writing here, are not playbacks of life events. They require a point of view from which past events are tied together and are made relevant for a here and now, with an eye on the autobiographer's future orientations. I am quite conscious, as Jerome Bruner points out too, that my memories often become victims of my self-making stories.



And so it is that the self, myself, becomes a product of my telling and not some essence to be delved for in the recesses of my subjectivity. My narrative, my memoir, grants to this written context of storytelling, this social setting on paper, what might be called certain literary privileges that are unique to this setting, that are different than the context, the setting that would exist, and does exist, when I tell the story orally, in a short essay form or in a poem.



Salman Rushdie said at a conference recently that he found it interesting that the organizers would invite him, a writer, to speak at a conference about communication. "Writers don't speak, writers write," he said. By the time I came to write full-time in my mid-fifties, I had had 50 years of talking and listening in great quantities and I did not mind not speaking; indeed, I preferred quiet. I was ready for the writing art. My corridor of flesh, of skin, bones and fluid, a corridor that allows language an access to the direct experience of writing as well as what one is writing about, enjoyed what Helene Cixous called in her equating of body and text, the pleasure of writing and the pleasure of sexuality/sensuality. In writing, the self folds around absences and my writing functions as a substitute for the social, the sexual, the verbal. My whole body is poised in between and resonates with, movements, spilling toward words that mark out the journey along the markings on the page. Running between the blue lines, the movement out of nothing takes my senses beyond the limit of skin, beyond the optic nerve, beyond the taste buds, beyond the beat of the ear drum, deep inside my throat, beyond the vocal chords. In writing this autobiography, I go beyond, below, within.



Part 36:

The imaginative powers with which one writes possess a flexibility and elasticity born of the very tension they seek to resolve. At least that is the way that Bahiyyih Nakhjavani puts it in an article published in 1982, the year I arrived north of Capricorn in an important part of this pioneer journey. After twenty years on the pioneer trail I had certainly experienced much tension. Perhaps, as Nakhjavani expresses the concept here, my imaginative powers had begun to give birth to both a flexibility and elasticity that would manifest themselves in my writing in the next several decades. I liked her theory. These imaginative powers exercised themselves as I stepped outside of society in order to gain a more critical perspective on it not so much for the purpose of defining myself as for understanding what I was not.



An important part of this tool of autobiography is repetition which Arthur Frank says is a medium of becoming. And all this becoming, all this repetition, took place in a world of memorabilia with all its metaphysical significance. Sometimes this metaphysical significance got lost in the daily round of habit. There is often nothing as old and tired as today's newspaper. Repetition is not always ennobling, refreshing. It provides a context but only one part of life's context and that part is usually neither new nor bright.



Perhaps at a later date I will expand on this notion of the metaphorical significance, metaphorical nature, of physical reality in general and this memorabilia in particular. From the newspaper to the knife, fork and spoon the memorabilia of our lives have much to speak to us. But this is a separate topic. Perhaps, though, I'm not to be trusted with either metaphor or facticity. The members of the Fourth Estate, the working men and women of the print and electronic media, whom intellectuals have been inveighing against for more than a century are, like novelists, all professional contorters, twisters of stories, of memorabilia, in one way or another. Much of the contorting, though, in media can be viewed as an authorless form of literature. Autobiographers do their share of contorting as well, but they are far from anonymous. Autobiographers are active participants. They are, in a sense, behind the scenes, but readers know who they are. If there is any contorting and twisting done, at least readers know who is doing it even if they don't know when and if it is done. Memorabilia offers a rich mise en scene for contorting and for playing with the metaphorical nature of reality.



The result of this playing with memorabilia is that some writers plumb the depths of experience while others remain fixed, gloriously or not-so-gloriously, on the surface. What some writers lack in profundity they make up for in verbal dexterity. In life's exacting ledger of posterity each writer plays with life's memorabilia in a myriad of ways. Some drive their pens on the tumbling ocean's surface and its endlessly repeated waves while others go to its depths discovering new and mysterious life forms. Different watery memorabilia cross each person's life and the significance of this memorabilia, the appreciation the writer offers his readers of what he experiences, the pleasures of the everyday objects, the commonplaces enlivened by humour and sweetened by pathos, are all so varied.



Given all the television shows, commercials, and infinite number of images that people are confronted with every day, their creators usually go by unnoticed, working behind the scenes. Their identities are known to a knowledgeable few, but for the most part, they remain anonymous. In place of sentences and paragraphs, aesthetic devices are used to portray mood and appeal to the senses of sight and sound. At its lowest point, mediums within media such as television, film, music, and computers can appeal to people's lack of attention. A lack of the ability to read will not hinder their enjoyment for any given sitcom or video game. Readers of new work through the use of appropriation, if the work is successful, will be able to disregard the original author's influence on the creation. The author will have become an inactive participant, whose roll will no longer extend itself into the piece's interpretation. The death of the author is the only thing that will yield a pure, untainted view of the piece. Some may say that this authorless creation lacks soul. Perhaps. On the other hand, when one views the credits at the end of some program, some film, it is clear that the creation is the collective work of many and could be said to possess a collective soul. Perhaps this notion of the collective soul has been present right back to the beginning of narrative in the western tradition. In place of speculations and fabrications about the narrator of Hesiod, for example, modern analysts are returning us to the way Hesiod the narrator, the Sender of the Way,5 would surely want to be understood--through his words. If we don't know who wrote the words, does it matter.



Part 37:

Often, though, if not to a significant extent, we come to be known through our body language. A study of body language reveals how much of our entire communication process relies on body language. I was often seen as a laid-back person. One of my students once said that he thought I was so laid back that I might as well have been parallel to the ground. I never felt I was super cool like, say, Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, Jim Morrison in the Doors or Sonny Corleone in The Godfather. They were all cool and I was not in their league.


Any writer, and especially those like myself who have spent a good part of their lives in Australia, cannot but see that the power of religion, especially belief in revelation, is weaker today than it was in any other epoch in human history, at least in the most secular of the nations on earth---of which Australia is certainly one. More and more children grow up without faith in God, without belief in a reward and punishment associated with the divine, without belief in the immortality of the soul and even in the validity, the importance, of a common ethical system. The genuine writer cannot ignore the fact that the family is losing or has lost its spiritual foundation. Such were the views of Isaac Bashevis Singer, expressed in his 1978 Nobel Lecture given about ten days before I left Ballarat for Tasmania. When Singer wrote these words in 1978 I was struggling with another episode of manic-depression; I was out of work and with three kids and a wife; I was more concerned about my own spiritual foundations than society's. Many would agree with Singer. Like so many issues, I think the ones raised by Singer are more complex and require much more than two or three core sentences. I think the ideas Singer expresses here are substantially true, the issues surrounding them are not simple, though, and so I will leave this issue for another volume.



I have often felt that a writer is only doing his ethical and political duty if he or she becomes morally independent of their formative society. But this can only be achieved partly. I was especially conscious of this as a student, as a teacher and, indeed, as an employee in many an organization. One could disobey the rules, one could have a different set of moral standards, one could have different interests than the great majority, one could flaunt the organizational standards but only to an extent. Moral independence from the group is one of the grandest themes of all literature, because, as some argue, it is the only means of achieving moral progress by the establishment of some higher ethical concept. Consciousness of this honourable calling may induce the poet to present himself as at once dignified and eccentric--epithets which catch some aspects of myself as a social presence.



Of course, in the Bahá'í society I have no desire to be morally independent of its mores and folkways, its customs and beliefs. But, given the fact that the moral and ethical preachments and encouragements in the Bahá'í writings are so extensive, Bertrand Russell's words which he once told a meeting may be pertinent: "the Ten Commandments are like an examination paper and should bear the rubric: ‘Only six need be attempted.'" One can do in life only so much. If, as one noted Bahá'í writer once pointed out, there are some 1400 virtues that one can find in the Bahá'í writings, one may do well in life if one only manifested, say, eight or nine hundred. Perhaps the general point here is that the subject is not simple.



In life we do not have direct access to the thoughts of other people. We have to infer the working of other minds from surface phenomena such as speech, body language, behavior, and action. R. D. Laing put the point vividly: "your experience of me is invisible to me and my experience of you is invisible to you. I cannot experience your experience. You cannot experience my experience. We are both invisible men. All men are invisible to one another. Experience is man's invisibility to man." This autobiography and whatever memorabilia remains of my life has taken away some of the invisibility. But still, however much I have put together clues to my life and described its unfolding patterns, however much I have developed various theses about why I and others reacted to the possibilities and circumstances the way they did, I could easily have wasted my time and never touched the truth. This is a theoretical possibility that the autobiographer must acknowledge. Unlike Samuel Beckett, though, in his discussion of Proust, I am not a writer suffering mysterious agonies whose origins are unclear to him. Most of the agonies I have suffered in life have been all too clear to me. Like Beckett's work on Proust, though, my autobiography is also intended as an academic study.



In that half century before the Declaration of the Bab in 1844, when His two precursors were alerting people to the coming fulfillment, Goethe made the following comment about his own great oeuvre. He called his work and especially his autobiography--one big confession. Looking at his work and the work of other great writers in the broadest sense, you could say the same of them all: Shakespeare, Balzac, Wordsworth, etc. We find, so runs the argument, total self-examination and self-accusation, a total confession in the work of any author. They are naked, I think, when we look into their words. "Maybe it's the same with any writing," said the British poet laureate, Ted Hughes, "writing that has real poetic life."



Part 38:

Hughes went on to say in that same interview that "maybe all poetry, insofar as it moves us and connects with us, is a revealing of something that the writer doesn't actually want to say, but desperately needs to communicate, to be delivered of. Perhaps it's the need to keep it hidden that makes it poetic — makes it poetry." The poet is actually saying something he desperately needs to share. The real mystery is this strange need. Why can't he just hide it and shut up? Why does he have to blab? Why do human beings need to tell their stories and confess? These questions possess an ambiguity for me and for others. One way I deal with this ambiguity is to see myself as a poet in the realm of prose. Another way is to recognize and admit I've had a secret nearly all my life. I've had things that I could rarely if ever say and some things I could say but rarely to any depth and intimacy.



If most poetry doesn't seem to be in any sense confessional, it's because the strategy of concealment, of obliquity, can be so compulsive that it's almost entirely successful. The smuggling analogy may help us here. The smuggler is loaded with interesting cargo that seems to be there for its own sake but, in reality, it's there for another purpose. I do a little smuggling here in my autobiography, but I feel as if I've declared most of my baggage, most of the items in my larder, so to speak. If my larder collects something of the food of other writers, I usually declare it. I draw on other writers because I find in reading their works and biographies I am so often reading about myself. Reading the words of famous writers often seems tantamount to reading about oneself, writing about them becomes pleasurably self-revelatory?



In that half century before the Declaration of the Bab, characterized as it was by those two chief precursors of the Babi Revelation, there emerged what was the defining quality of autobiography: the author's historicisation of his/her own unique development. Goethe, it is often argued, was the first truly modern exponent of autobiography. "It was he who first wrote his own life as the history of an individuality. He saw his personal formation as the effective interplay of his self and his world." I have taken Weintraub's thesis about modernity, the self and autobiography and put it into the context of Bahá'í history. The history of autobiography by Bahá'ís recapitulates Bahá'í history. That is, the encounter with the great mass of humankind on the planet has elicited among Bahá'ís many cultural responses. There has been a growing tendency to think of the self in the same way that the fully evolved Western autobiographer does: as an individual being shaped by the contingencies of his or her experience. Bahá'ís, at least some and at this stage still relatively few, are stimulated, by their various experiences of pioneering, community building, extending the Bahá'í teachings to their contemporaries, study and many other activities to produce an historicized sense of a highly individualised self, just as in modern western autobiography. Autobiography is not merely a handy evidentiary supplement to other sources, it is one of the premium sites for the articulation, the expression, of the development, the process, of spiritual development. In many ways spiritual development and spiritual realities are intangible abstractions. But autobiography can help the individual give concrete expression to the subtleties of this gradual and complex process.



A study of autobiography by Bahá'ís in the next century must and will have something to say about the prodigious evidence of autobiography's many dimensions and expressions in the first two centuries of Bahá'í history at least since Shaykh Ahmad arrived in Iran in 1805/6. This study, though, is not my purpose here. My work is but one more example in the long line.



Edward Said, Professor at Columbia, said in 1999 that the main cause he is fighting for is "not something about political parties or positions or organizations, but rather an individual commitment which I don't regret at all." For me, my cause is both individual commitment and organizational, Bahá'í Administration, the nucleus and pattern for a future World Order.



Part 39:

Writers, autobiographers, indeed, all human beings, throw off some of their luggage, their baggage, when they talk or write. But to tell it all is just not appropriate. They and we deliberately strip off the veiling analogies occasionally and go to the root confessing some item of one's deeper life. The luggage, the baggage, is open to all for inspection. Perhaps Sylvia Plath in our time, in the months before the Universal House of Justice was elected, in early 1962, went further than most. "Her secret," Ted Hughes said, "was most dangerous to her. She desperately needed to reveal it. You can't overestimate her compulsion to write as she did. She had to write those things — even against her most vital interests. She died before she knew what The Bell Jar and the Ariel poems were going to do to her life, but she had to get them out.



She had to tell everybody, like those Native American Indians who periodically tell everything that was wrong and painful in their lives in the presence of the whole tribe. It was no good doing it in secret; it had to be done in front of everybody else. Maybe that's why poets go to such lengths to get their poems published. It's no good just whispering them to a priest or a confessional. And it's not for fame, because they go on doing it after they've learned what fame amounts to. No, until the revelation's actually published, the poet feels no release. In all that, Sylvia was an extreme case, I think."



I suppose I got this sense of release on the internet in the early years of this new millennium. I certainly was not interested in fame, as I pointed out elsewhere in this autobiography. Like Plath I felt compelled to write but, unlike Plath or those native American peoples, I did not feel the need to tell all. With more than 2000 pages, though, there is enough to keep most readers busy for a time. I've had a need to write about the Bahá'í Faith for, perhaps, forty years. My autobiography gave me this opportunity. It also gave me the opportunity in which I could say 'me voici', 'it's me here.'



Peter Read, in his article Private Papers and a Sense of Place in an online seminar Private Lives Revealed: Letters, Diaries, History,1 analyses the nineteenth century English poet John Clare's verse. He sees Clare's verse as an interesting example of private papers. Clare's poetry was so eclectic, his language so personal, his personal involvement so touching, that Read argues Clare's poetry was much more akin to a collection of private papers that we might find in a library than to the poetry of a poet who could have become, but didn't, one of the best-known poets of the nineteenth century. Instead, wrote the cultural historian John Barrell in discussing Clare, "insofar as Clare was successful in expressing his own sense of place, he was writing himself out of the main stream of European literature."



Accomplished poets and novelists are fully aware of the need for their readers to be able to generalise from the emotions which the writer presents about a particular place to their own world view and life experiences as readers. Private papers often reveal such private emotions, and private emotions often reveal intense, ungeneralised concerns for particularities which hardly ever surface amongst the published works of professional writers. I mention this article and the poet John Clare because I sometimes think that all of my writing could be seen as a simple, if lengthy, collection of private papers.



During the last two decades, while I was writing this autobiography, some of the scientific work from the physical and biological sciences and the philosophy of science was turning away from regular and smooth systems in order to investigate more fragmented, more chaotic phenomena. So, too, in the study of the writing of autobiography there was an increasing consciousness, an increasing interest, in autobiography's complexity, ambiguity, indeed, its chaotic content. In the last two decades there has been much interest in chaos theory, but I don't want to go into this labyrinthine subject. There is certainly an element of the fragmented, of the chaotic, in my own life, in all our lives. Sometimes the feeling of life's fragmentation, its lack of cohesion, partakes of a certain absurdity, a certain vanity and emptiness. Sometimes these feelings are pervasive and sometimes they are short-lived, momentary feelings. This new direction in autobiography can be seen emerging all the way back to the 1950s. But it is not my purpose here to write a history of autobiography. I do present short capsules of that history from time to time because it throws light on my work.



Part 40:

Speaking of direction, as I have from time to time in what has become a four book set, the process in writing autobiography is as invisible as is the role of director in a theatrical production. I create something, as does a theatre director, that can never be touched. Both art forms, both roles, are measured, to a significant extent by the number of people in the audience or in the readership. Just as it is the role of the director to make the production as meaningful and illuminating as possible, so is this true of the writer of an autobiography. The director's work is finished when the play is staged and the autobiographer's is finished when the book is sent to press or, now, posted on the internet. Both are responsible for the artistic vision and the coherence of the product. Both are managers of a project. In the case of autobiographers, though, they have the multiple role of lighting, designer, composer, costume and set designer, writer, publicist, among others. They must create the space where all of these roles collaborate to present the final multi-dimensional product. They must engage a certain sensibility, possess a certain desire, a striving and sometimes even a passionate ecstasy or enthusiasm for their task. If this sensibility and passion does not result in an attractive package no one will get turned on, no one will read the book.



After more than three decades of living in Australia and nearly three living in Canada I have come to accept what one writer called the "Toquevillian paradox." Simply stated it is the view that the highest excellences in life are nearly always achieved through moderate, not extreme, zeal. There is usually something blinding about zealousness, something that overshoots the mark. Eagerness attracts but overeagerness repels. Sincerity, yes, but an emotional intensity turned up too high, no. A general social climate of pervasive, vast cynicism, skepticism, even indifference toward personal commitment, toward the epic and the tragic in life requires of the writer, the poet, like myself a moderate expression. My unashamedly introverted voice I have learned to express with humour, with a light touch and with an extended autobiography, at least I like to think so.



I am also conscious of a basic rhetorical problem that I have as autobiographer; namely, creating an appearance of honesty. All autobiographers have this problem. Howard Helsinger puts the problem this way: "Testifying to his own character, the autobiographer is a suspect witness whom the least skeptical auditors might doubt..….The more personal his testimony, the less liable to corroboration by public knowledge, and hence the paradox: the greater the autobiographer's effort at introspective honesty, the more his subject he grows to doubt."



The poet Elizabeth Browning, expressing another problem faced by the autobiographer, once wrote: "To be one's own chronicler is a task generally dictated by extreme vanity and often by that instinctive feeling which prompts the soul of man to snatch the records of his life from the dim and misty ocean of oblivion." Even at the early age of fourteen, she recognized the "extreme vanity" inherent in an autobiography. Vanity has enigmatic qualities; it possesses some of that obscuring dust of acquired knowledge and some of those illusions of satanic fancy. I am warned.



I think this is the great gain that Australian culture has taught me, that I have learned through some osmotic process. I have learned to keep my zeal well-contained, my excitements and intensities appropriately moderated. I have become more comfortable this way. Much must be concealed when one enters the social domain. General ideas and sustained and subtle thought are, for the most part, kept for very special occasions, occasions which are inner and private rather than public and social. And any naturally occurring ecstasy I have learned to express in the inner recesses of my being, but not something for public consumption.



Part 41:

I have learned as well to express and experience a genuine and expansive kindness—around a core which already existed as part of my Canadian heritage—and I have learned to love pleasure in a way that my more restrained Canadian conservatism never allowed me, even in my youth. There is even a certain boisterousness, an honesty, an energy, in the Aussi psyche which has insensibly crossed the borders of my personality and penetrated my emotional nodes. When occasion allows and when it seems right I have found recesses of my personality that in my youth and young adulthood were quite unknown to me. In this experience there was catharsis, relief and a feeling that I was tapping into something that was there but never before experienced. But there was also exhaustion. The social domain was a game I could only play for limited amounts of time by my fifties and by my sixties I kept it as limited as possible.



Just as casting is important in the role of the director so too is this the case for writers as they choose just what they will include in their work from the thousands of people who have been on the stage of their life. The right cast helps the dramaturgical process on the stage as well as between the covers of a book. A good play, a successful production, says Sue Rider, "is one which is electrifying, spiritually, emotionally, visually and intellectually stimulating for the people who see it, the audience." This is, I think, equally true of the final product of a piece of writing. As the writer of this work, I have to be like a creative director and create an artistic environment where my own creativity can blossom. Flexibility, openness to change, listening to others, indeed, a wide range of qualities needed for creativity to find a home are necessary if the work is to live and engage others. Even then, in the end, only some will come to see the production, read the article or read the book. Few of the total population will become stimulated. The exercise is not fundamentally about popularity, at least not to me, however important a variable popularity may be.



Rather than seeing form, literary or physical, as something divided into the classical binaries of order and entropy, form now is often regarded as a continuum expressing varying degrees of pattern and repetition, elements that are at the core of structure, any structure. Insofar as the structure of this book is concerned, it seems to me it is more cumulative than sequential. What readers get here is more a group of semi-independent analyses occurring in unevenly distributed clusters, rather than linear arguments leading to a clear conclusion. The individual analyses I put on page after page are themselves often partial and the conclusions are stated somewhat obliquely. Some of the book's best moments are suggestive in ways that elude easy articulation. I want readers to realize that I am grappling with some of the central theoretical issues of autobiography, particularly in a Bahá'í context, in a way that few Bahá'ís, if any, have done before.


Not everyone will enjoy thinking about such matters, such analysis and introspection, as I have raised in this book, and those who don't will probably dislike this book or, more importantly, they will probably not even pick the book up or come to know of its existence. What I try to do is make a case, one that is undeniably personal and quite idiosyncratic, but ultimately I hope persuasive--a case that this book is less interesting for its connections to existing scholarship than for the fresh and, I like to think, provocative things that I have to say. Each reader, especially each Bahá'í reader, has been weaned since the late 1970s and early 1980s--a generation now--on a diversity of print that no previous generation has enjoyed and I trust this diversity has set a heterogeneous perspective, thus overcoming whatever homogeneity had existed before. This experience of the last generation makes, I like to think, a receptive climate for my work. But, of course, those looking for a narrative, an interesting story, are likely to be disappointed when they come to read this work.



Part 42:

I have felt, more and more as this memoir developed in the last two decades, that the very appropriate role of both my memoirs and my poetry should be what Mary Shelley called "the intrusion of self in a work of art," and "the habit of self-analysis and display." For this approach results in a work in which "the human heart" is as some "undiscovered country." Mary Shelley says such works may become the favorites among men because of their "imagination and sensibility," but they are favorites only to some readers. Such works, she continues, belonging as they do to the imagination, are often not appreciated or enjoyed by many.



Doris Lessing once wrote that the great bourgeois monster, the bourgeois nightmare is repetition. It is, of course, both nightmare and salvation. At one end of the continuum we find extreme order, pattern and traditional forms and at the other end we find gibberish, chaos and disorder. Fragmentation is something we all experience and it is found between life's extremes and at the extremes as well. Fractal autobiography works in the ground between the extremes of life. Digression, interruption, fragmentation and lack of continuity, then, are part of the normal world of autobiography. Fractal comes from the Latin for fragmented or broken: hence the term fractal autobiography. Autobiography, as a literary form, possesses a certain malleability, a certain pluralism of forms. In my work, my narrative and analysis, there is no single triumphant highway; rather, there is a maze of paths, a network of disparate forms. I have experienced much of my life this way. If there is any single, any major, creative achievement, it lies in the synthesis of divergent forms such as prose and poetry and content and ideas from several of the social sciences and humanities mixed with the quotidian narrative of an everyman.



However much of a synthesis I achieve, my work is riddled with heterogeneity, a strange composite of belief and scepticism, action, yarn and analytical or metaphysical abstruseness. Some of my narrative seems fashioned out of an adventure story and some seems derived from what I have read, heard and seen in several dozen places: amid the sounds of students moving down corridors and in classrooms, amid the screech of traffic in a taxi and many cities and towns, the deafening clatter of machines in a tin mine, the whisper of voices in offices and the variously pitched voices of people in lounge-rooms across two continents. Into such robust and not-so-robust stuff, however, I infiltrate fine-spun strands of philosophical and psychological speculation. My story and my analysis characteristically oscillates between contraries. Whatever unity I feel I achieve in the midst of these contraries and this heterogeneity; I'm sure there will be readers for whom this unity is equally elusive, usually unattained and, in attained, not of interest to them.



William Empson in his now classic work on ambiguity suggests, the "essential key to the poetic use of language is that it is the reader who invents reasons and weighs judgements as to why a poet has chosen to convey the facts he has." Ambiguity is a major device for the poet to engage us imaginatively, by forcing us to evaluate the balance of a particular phrase. There is much poetry in this autobiography and there is some ambiguity. Ambiguity is unavoidable in both daily life and in poetry. I must say, though, that I try to avoid the ambiguous as much as possible to make the readers' job easier and because, for the most part, I like to call things straight. Much of the humour everywhere, but especially here in Australia where I have laid my hat for decades, is based on ambiguity among other factors. I find it both enriches life and lightens it as well as causes problems between people because of that very ambiguity which so often can result in taking a comment the wrong way, causing offence.



Part 43:

As architect Nigel Reading writes, "Pure Newtonian causality is an incorrect, a finite view, of life's processes, but then again so is the aspect of complete uncertainty and infinite chance." The nature of reality is now seen as somewhere in between. One writer called this interplay between chance and causality, a dynamical symmetry. It occurs to me that this shift in focus from a simple, a polarized view of life to a more dynamic, more complex, more chaotic view is something that is expressed in, found in, my autobiography. Of course the whole idea of freedom, of free will, is an illusion "in a world where every effect must have a necessary and sufficient physical cause." It's an old conundrum, free-will and determinism.. I like to think that we overcome this encompassing determinism by what Whitehead calls a "creative advance into novelty." This is an expression I first came across nearly forty years ago. I liked it then and, after 40 years, I find it expresses much that has been my experience.



The poetry, the autobiography I am calling fractal shares many traits with that contested term--postmodern. Often the postmodern writer dismisses the very idea that a historical, coherent, composite person ever existed. The biographer does not have to dig for true persons with existential truths surrounding their lives. For such people and such truths do not exist. Some historical figures, like Dickens and Shakespeare, are so large, so amorphous, that they can take whatever shape biographers want to give them. Many a postmodernist would argue that voice "is a patchwork of other people's voices" as well as their own. I would argue, with the postmodernist, that this work of mine is, among other things, but an echo of hundreds of different books that I read in preparing to write this autobiography. To many a postmodernist I simply don't really exist as a character. I'm just a little patchwork figure. In someways this is an exaggeration, but it contains some of the spirit of the approach of the postmodernist to autobiography. These remarks contain, too, some of the spirit of my own approach, my own understanding, of this literary creation of mine.



Some contemporary poetries and genres of autobiography show an allegiance to romantic, confessional or formalist traditions. And so does some of my work. Fractal poetry, fractal aesthetics and fractal autobiography describe another feature of my literary topography. When poets and autobiographers address aesthetics, their own work, their writing, inevitably shades their views. I write from perceptions of where my poems, my autobiography, have been lately and where they are both likely to be headed. I write in a middle, a fractal, ground between the elitist and populist polarities or views of autobiography. As the curtain begins to fall in these early years of the evening of my life, on what has been an adventurous sixty years, I scramble about with cultural theorists and artists to attempt to sum up the last half century or so of both my personal life and society's cultural production and historical experience. It's a self-interested activity, of course, with one eye on an hypothesized readers in the future. I stand with social critics and philosophers as the millennium turns and I gaze both backwards and forwards. I would like to exclaim, "aha! I've got it." I'd like to win a gold star and enjoy endless invitations to dinners and panels for the next 10 years—well theoretically. In reality, though, I have come to experience a strong distaste for much in the social domain.



Part 44:

The art critic, John Ruskin, organized his past life chiefly in terms of moments of vision because he conceived himself essentially as a spectator, as one, that is, who lived chiefly by seeing. He said he felt fully alive only when engaged in the act of vision. For Ruskin, the core of his life experience was the thirst for visible fact and a standing apart from the flow of life so that he could look on. For me, as it is for all of us, the eye is the chief tool of the rational faculty, but I have often felt somewhat illiterate visually. I am not able to encompass my life so centrally around vision as Ruskin did and, although I too have been a spectator--aren't we all—I have been much more than this. I am storyteller, recaller of events, analyst, historian, psychologist and sociologist writing so that those of the generations to come will not forget the four epochs of the first century of this Formative Age or, to put it more accurately, will have more insights into the period in question.


In conventional fiction and autobiography a narrative continuity is usually and clearly discernible. But it is impossible to create an absorbing narrative, it seems to me, without at the same time enriching it with images, asides, themes and variations—impulses from within. Just as the first historian in the West, Herodotus, placed great stress on personal identity and motive over institutional factors and often halted his narrative "for tangential observations," so is this my approach.


This emphasis on and use of the tangential is evident in much fiction: Joyce, Kafka, Virginia Woolf, and Faulkner are obvious examples. The narrative line has tended to weaken, merge with, and be dominated by, the sum of variations. This is also true in much autobiography. Each narrative step in a great deal of modern writing is likely to provoke many sidewinding pages before the next narrative step is taken. A lot of the power of many writers is to be found in these sidewindings. In addition, a writer's side-glances or, as Emily Dickinson called the process, 'looking aslant on the world', are equally important. What happens in jazz when the melody merges with the improvisations and the improvisations dominate has been happening in fiction and autobiography for some time now.



This is certainly true in both my autobiography and my poetry. There is some narrative in my autobiography and there is a sense of continuity which is clear, but there are also variations, improvisations, sidewindings, side-glances and impulses from within. These variations, I know from experience, are too much for many readers. But as in daily life, one can not connect with everyone.


There is another element of this memoir that some readers may have trouble connecting with. That is its epic quality. I see this work as an epic in its own right and as a small part in a much bigger epic involving the origin and development of the Bahá'í Faith and its community.


Part 45:

"All historical epics," as Benjamin Friedlander notes in his analysis of Bahá'í poet Robert Hayden's epic, "are first of all affirmations of community." While there is affirmation here, my rendition of epic is more a simple preoccupation with a continuing historical tradition which I played a part of during four epochs. Like Hayden's America and his failed attempt at an epic of the Negro comunity, my epic rendering of community--the Bahá'í community--is, partly, a problem with many algebraic variables but no one solution. I do not see my work as either failure or success but, rather, work in progress or process. This work and my life has been captive by the fascination of those things, mixed of light and darkness, that are the passing phenomena of this spacially and temporally conditioned universe of names and forms that I have absorbed in my life. The shaping force of civilization is lived experience and at the heart of this epic is just that: inner experience--mine, peculiar and private, at a particular juncture in history. Community is problematic, enigmatic and the sine qua non of this memoir. But I can't help but agree with the sentiments of Joseph Campbell when he says: "each individual is the centre of a mythology of his own." As Bahá'u'lláh says, we each must find for ourselves the indwelling God, the Thou at the centre of our world--and the crossover, for the Bahá'í, the cornerstone of community, is symbolized by Bahaullah.


Many historians make of their work, the content of their work, an epic. Herodotus, to continue drawing on his history, makes of the Persian wars a great epic. These wars are for him a "struggle between barbarism and civilization projecting this back into events long after they occurred." The Bahá'í epic is ideally suited to be the screenplay for a Cecil B. DeMille epic film, but it will be some time before the Bahá'í narrative is seen in this context of epic. My own view is that the entire history of this Faith, beginning with the lives of its two precursors reads uncannily like a dramatic presentation of history on celluloid. But I leave that for future directors, producers and cinematographers.


The earlier senses of 'form' in previous centuries in both autobiography and poetry are not important to me. I have rejected them as irrelevant or, at best, mildly influential to what I am aiming to achieve. Perhaps, to put the issue more accurately and more simply, I have introduced my own autobiographical mix and my own prose-poem form because it serves my purposes more usefully. I find that the literal activity of writing itself is very often my focus. This may prove difficult for some readers as it has often proved difficult for me. The fragmentary, labyrinthine storyline that I present here, like that of Bahá'í history itself, might also present formidable obstacles to readers or, indeed, to any commercial screenplay or epic that might come out of this work down the road of time. But I shall be long gone before such this epic is ever translated onto the big sreeen or the stage, or so I am inclined to think. If the barren beauty and the forbidding nature of many of the landscapes I have lived in is ever to be combined with this memoir's literary and psychological complexities would it ever appeal to escapist movie audiences?


There is a second historian who provides somewhat of a model for my writing; indeed, I like to think I combine or at least aim to combine the best of Herodotus and the best of Thucydides. Perhaps the reason I even refer to these first historians of the western intellectual tradition is that they were part of a course on Greek history which I taught in the late 1980s and early 1990s and so I became more than a little familiar with their works. I like to see this work the way Thucydides did his: as a possession for all time, as a piece of investigation, interpretation and analytical writing, as an account of the moral and social breakdown of society, as part of a mythic paradigm underlying this work, as one attempt to give expression to the will of God and motivation as the two factors which shape the course of history, as an attempt to give expression to the continuity and development of my time and an analysis of the fundamental illness of the age—disunity. Thucydides sought a stable centre for society and I see that stable centre as one that will evolve, in time, from the nucleus and pattern of the Bahá'í Order. Thucydides thought an absence of romance from his work would, over time, detract from its interest and lose him the applause of the moment. There is much which will detract from my work: lack of romance, absence of a simple and provocative story line, a lack of simplicity in the style of my writing. Thucydides' culture was shaken to its roots and he feared for its survival; such is the case with my age and my society. It was shaken to its roots before I was born and the shaking has just gone on and on. Perhaps one day I will draw some further parallels with other historians. Fifteen years ago, at the same time that I began to write poetry extensively, I began a file on the major historians of history and there is much more I could add here from their several philosophies of history. But, for the moment, this will suffice.


Part 46:

My poetry has its beginnings in many places and times. One of the crucial beginnings is in modern times right at the start of the Kingdom of God on earth, from a Bahá'í perspective, in the early 1950s. Specifically, the American poet Allen Ginsberg had a list of slogans that he kept over his desk back in 1954 in San Francisco. The slogans came from Ginsberg's friend Jack Kerouac. Kerouac called them: "Essentials of Spontaneous Prose." They went like this:


"Blow as deep as you want -- write as deeply, fish as far down as you want, satisfy yourself first, then readers cannot fail to receive telepathic shock and meaning-excitement by the same laws operating in his own human mind.... Nothing is muddy that runs in time and to the laws of time---the Shakespearean stress of a dramatic need to speak now in my own unalterable way or forever hold my tongue. Make no revisions….write outwards swimming in a sea of language to peripheral release and exhaustion ... tap from yourself the song of yourself, blow! -- now! -- your way is your only way...." Although it would be nearly forty years before I was able to put these words into poetic practice, they say much about the way I go about writing and why?

The objects which occur to me at any given moment of composition, what we might call objects of recognition, can be, must be, treated exactly as they occur to my mind and my senses. Ideas, imaginations, abstractions, conceptions, preconceptions from outside this sensory apparatus, world, paradigm are, for me, introduced to enrich the sensory, the intellectual, picture. They are handled as a series of additions to a field in such a way that a series of tensions are created. These tensions are made to hold and to hold exactly inside the content and the context of my autobiography and its prose and poetry. This content and context has forced itself into being through me, through my writing as autobiographer and poet. This is a central aspect of anything I might say about the memorabilia which will remain after I am gone and which will remain forever irretrievable by me.


The self-chosen place of the autobiographical mode, the point of real reference, is the act and the situation of writing, which provides a sense of coherence. Coherence can be obtained in many ways in life. But, for me, the autobiographical mode, the situation of writing and its products are an important aid. They provide an overarching internal coherence. The recent increase of writings in the autobiographical mode, as far back as the early 1950s and sixties, seems to represent both a reaction to the so-called crisis of the novel and a possible artistic solution to the fragmentary nature of human experience. Yet at the same time the autobiographical turn reveals the paradox inherent in this form. My autobiography reflects a nostalgia for stability, continuity, past experiences and their memories as well as a desire to understand the paradoxes and complexities of life and deal as best I can with life's vacuous, empty, semblances of reality, absurdities and vanities. I'm sure for readers that my narrative will seem disjointed, even plotless; if that is so, it may be due to the fact that life often seems this way. Defining and detecting omissions, the reasons for what I do select, the discontinuities and the irregularities in my autobiography may be as problematic for my readers to assess as it is for readers of many a historical text. Perhaps I am in good company.


Part 47:

Disproving what I say will require readers to tell different stories and to do this will reveal different assumptions, explanations and interpretations of my life and times. To change the narrative is to change the explanation. At the same time, I should not want all those who would analyse this work, to be apologists for me and/or what I say. I think there are many problems with my account: the frequent shifts of locale make narration difficult; the extensive use of analysis often gets in the way of a good story; chopped-up narrative, analysis of questions that can't be answered by narrative and, for readers, a situation of being faced with the reality of the limits of narratological analysis. No matter how much readers study this text there are problems they simply cannot solve: problems with the text, problems with my life, problems with my analysis. If readers are stimulated in their thinking I will be more than satisfied.


Conventional autobiographies could be regarded as the proper medium for the realistic representation of a self and for the narrative recovery of past events from the perspective of the present. Many contemporary autobiographical texts of the last half century stress the illusory nature of what could be called mythopoetic endeavours. Due to the breakdown of a clear demarcation between reality and fiction or reality and imagination, the traditional conception of the autobiographical genre has lost its degree of certainty and truth. Any sense of perfection, of completeness, of comprehensiveness cannot be achieved in written works and most certainly not in these kinds of writings composed of thousands and thousands of potential scraps of recollection--so runs the argument. Memory follows exactly the course of events and chronology, but that which emerges from this chronology is totally different from the actual happening. This is partly due to memory's role in transfiguring the past by bathing things in a sentimental glow, making the good old days appear more beautiful than they actually were. Also, I have come to regard my life as a matter of events of the soul, events which, to quote Levinas again, "resemble mystery rather than spectacle, and whose meaning remains hidden to whoever refuses to enter into the dance."


A few years ago I heard an interview with Australian historian Inga Clendinnen. She said the following about memory: "Memory is profoundly unreliable and profoundly coercive. Memories can seem absolutely real, realer than reality, as you know quite well when you get a sudden whiff of a scent and you're transported back into some situation you'd thought you'd forgotten and you remember everything about it. You know, the sound of the magpies, the smell of the grass, it's there, held in that whiff of scent." And she continued: "I think we construct our memories. I think we have vivid sense impressions and out of them we construct a narrative and the narrative is about the sense we make of what's happening to us and our dominant mood and what we think matters about the scenes we're involved with. And we classically do this very slightly, of necessity, after the event. And then those memories which are personal and private and vivid can become consolidated into a kind of group narrative as with family memories."


Part 48:

I think Clendinnen is right here. At least my experience reflects her views on memory. I often tell stories about something in my life and, after many years of telling a particular story, I begin to wonder if any of what I am saying is true. But I remember the story and I have come to treat it as gospel truth for so long that I feel it to be gospel truth. And it is truth because it matters to me. There's a whole lot of social meaning being invested in our stories and tales. There is also a whole lot of complex interplay between personal and community forces, and between ideology and philosophy on the one hand and practical considerations and activities on the other. This interplay is revealed in my decisions, behaviour and the patterns in my life.


Cherished memories are often all a person has as they head into old age, but these memories are often false in terms of many of their basic substantive details. That's the problem with human memory. It's both fallible and creative. It's also part of our most private, personal and cherished possession. If you attack someone's memories, you're attacking the seams of their being. Nonetheless it's the historian's and the autobiographer's jobs to tackle their own and other people's memories. As an autobiographer it is important that I really understand just how perverse and creative memory is and that it must be kept under close scrutiny.


More generally, though, I leave to posterity the debates that will inevitably occur and recur across the public sphere, debates that will act as if constantly taking the temperature of the habitations of autobiography within the cultural industry. One must acknowledge the impossibility of explaining how all the differentiations across the world of popular non-fiction work in both the contemporary world and, a fortiori, in some future time and place. Publishing houses, both on and off the internet, quite deliberately position themselves with their many-sided strategies in adopting and legitimating their own territories of transaction. These territories of transaction form a valuable framework for the public promotion of authors and genres.


Editors working on both high literary and popular mass market manuscripts are very aware of the different demands posed on and by these widely differentiated genres. This speaking up on behalf of popular non-fiction in general and autobiography in particular, as I have done here, I think raises new questions and interpretations of the nature of the game. Despite all the doomsday rhetoric of the past thirty years, and there has been much, there is something about the role of the genre of autobiography in the cultural industry that keeps rising up with renewed vitality from the overcrowded marketplace, the smouldering pit and the fiery furnace of the world of publishing.


Part 49:

It has been my view, in writing this work, that a piece of autobiographical literature is most effectively religious, psychological, sociological, historical and, indeed, any one or many terms from the social sciences and humanities that I might apply, not by propounding abstract dogma, theory or general propositions, but by representing human experience concretely and honestly-whatever the professed beliefs of the author. My thesis, if I could call it that, is that the work of unbelievers like writers Yeats and Faulkner, or of Eliot before his conversion, can present a vision of reality of profound significance to Bahá'ís insofar as it is faithful to the truth of human experience. For, whatever the beliefs of writers, they all must take some of the elements that shine in the eye of their memory and try to accord to each of them whatever splendour and sadness, melancholy and delight the different apparitions play in the mystery that is their lives.


Though Beethoven's final religious views are somewhat obscure and Mozart was associated with the Masons, their musical creations often furnish far greater spiritual enhancements to our lives than many of those being contributed by devout believers in our time. By the same token, the first thing a Bahá'í should ask about a work of literature of this type I have written is whether it is honestly and skillfully crafted. Of course, I have studiously avoided the works of covenant breakers in composing this autobiography. While this may be strange to those who are not Bahá'ís, it is only consistent with the teachings of my Faith, teachings at the basis of this work.

This epilogue has expanded to some 60,000 words of further reflections on the overall autobiographical process, a process that has interested me, off and on, for some twenty-three years. As I head through the early years of my late adulthood, incrementally and insensibly, I feel similar to the sociologist Norbert Elias who said in an interview: "I have an unusual talent and I feel I have a duty to do something with it. A duty towards other people. I work even harder than ever." Of course, I see whatever talent I possess as a gift from God. Elias worked passionately for years at his intellectual tasks. I don't work as hard as he and my talent is not as striking as his. But I devote as much of my time as humanly possible to the many intellectual tasks that have been unfolding as the evening of my life entered its early hours. One never knows when one's own end will come, when the early evening will become late evening and when night may fall and "by a sleep to say we end." Like Marcel Proust I am an exacting advocate of the belief that life is unfathomably complex, too complex in fact for even a 1000 page masterpiece like this to do it justice. I know my work is never done but, inevitably, my life will end and whatever work I have chosen to do will also be terminated.


Part 50:

The historical trends of at least the last several decades or more, trends which account for the dramatic reduction in respect and veneration for elderly individuals in Western societies have, as yet, only a limited negative affect on me and my life style. This negative causal perspective of the elderly is only partially true and I do not want to go into detail on this subject until, perhaps, I myself enter into old age at the age of 80 and beyond. Some theorists say we have in the last hundred years invented the very concept of the elderly, just as we invented the concept of childhood in a previous period. These same theorists suggest we now deny death and avoid thinking about dieing. With the creation of the concept of the elderly in my own lifetime has come their isolation from society into special homes. People tend to avoid encountering these homes and thus are not reminded of life's carnal mortality.


An image of the elderly, so goes this view, as ineffectual and incompetent is promoted. They are seen as unable to contribute to society's work force. This view of the elderly is a natural extension of the view of people as "human resources" to be used and exploited in accordance with technological demand. When their usefulness as resources comes to an end, then they come to an end. In the context of such a vision, elderly individuals cease to exist in any meaningful way at all. In their capacity as a standing reserve, they are unable to stand on their own. They can no longer contribute to the world of linear vision and they are directed to the infinite beyond, a world devoid of generational rhythms and traditions. As I say, I shall return to this theme as I advance into this final stage of the lifespan.


Perhaps my experience with this book may be somewhat like the experience of Authur Schopenhauer with his famous work, The World as Will and Representation. Alfred Estermann's study Schopenhauers Kampf um sein Werk examines the relationship between Arthur Schopenhauer and his publishers, focussing in particular on the three editions of Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (The World as Will and Representation), published by Brockhaus in 1818/9, 1844, and 1859. Shopenhauer had grand expectations for his book but the reality of the book's reception, at least for the first 40 years, was far apart from these expectations. Acceptance and recognition of this now-classic work came slowly. Like many authors, Schopenhauer was certain of the brilliance and significance of his work when he first offered it to his publisher. I'm not sure I would characterize my book as either brilliant or significant, although I would certainly like to. I enjoyed writing it but I'm not as confident about its reception in either the short or the long term. I leave the assessment of this work to others and to those mysterious dispensations of a watchful Providence, dispensations that I have often refered to in these pages. Not craving recognition as some writers do, perhaps younger ones, I'm happy to leave this work on the internet in small doses and to time's winged chariot.


CHAPTER 11: APPENDICES

Listed below is a brief outline are some potential scraps of recollection and memory that have not made it into this autobiography thusfar. I have placed these scraps in a series of appendices to bring this epilogue to a conclusion.


List of 15 Appendices Which Follow:


1. Material, resources, information not found in this autobiography.

2. Horowitz and package: A Model-Some Comparisons and Contrasts.

3. Ron Price, "Omissions Are Not Accidents: Erasures & Cancellations

in Ron Price's Manuscripts: A Hypothetical," Unpublished Manuscript, 2006.

4 Punctuation and editing drawing on an article by Emma L. Roth-Schwartz, "Colon and Semi-Colon in Donne's Prose Letters: Practice and Principle," in Early Modern Literary Studies, Vol.3, No.1, 1997

5. A record of books read or partly read: 1962-2007.

6. A Study in Time Management: My Retirement Years: April 1999 to April 2007

7. A note on Choosing One's Literary Executive

8. This essay draws on the "Preface To The Electronic Edition, Writings of Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, 2002; and 2 Writings: Washington to James Craik, 25 March 1784.

9. Origon and Purpose of My Epic Poem.

10. Outline of my collection of 6000 poems, 60 booklets of poetry

11. Letter-Poems: A Blended Genre

12. My own funeral: some thoughts at my 50th birthday

13. My bi-polar disorder: a 60 year study in context:1947-2007

14. Some poetry and comments: on my poetry collection.

15. Bahá'í literature:1907-2007

APPENDIX 1:


MATERIAL/RESOURCES/INFORMATION

NOT FOUND IN THIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY


The material below is found in my home in my study and, although not included in this autobiography, it could be useful for future autobiographical, biographical and historical work.


SECTION III Characters/Biographies: 24(ca) short sketches


SECTION V Published Work

Essays-Volumes 1 to 4-200 essays(ca):

See(a) Resume Vol.5 Ch 1 above


Section V: Volumes 1 to 3

of private collection.


SECTION VI Unpublished Work: Essays-Volumes 1 to 6-200 essays(ca)

........................1979-2007

Novels-Volumes 1 to 3---12 attempts

........................1983-2006


SECTION VII Letters

Volumes 1 to 35: 4000 letters(ca).

……………… 1960-2007


SECTION VIII Poetry Booklets 1 to 60: 6000 poems(ca)

SECTION IX A.Notebooks :300(ca)......................................1966-2007
B.Notebooks :300(ca) no-longer-extant…….1949-1999

SECTION X.1 Photographs : 12 files/booklets/folios........…1908-2007

SECTION X.2 Journals : Volumes 1 to 5......................1844-2007<

SECTION XI Memorabilia. :.............................................….1908-2007

APPENDIX 2:


HOROWITZ AND PACKARD:

SOME USEFUL COMPARISONS & CONTRASTS


In the preface of Daniel Horowitz's book "Vance Packard & American Social Criticism"(University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1994) which I read in 2006 after I had finished the bulk of this memoir I came across an approach to how I would like to deal with any person who is interested in writing, and possesses the skills to write, my biography. I include parts of Horowitz's preface below for future reference should it ever be useful and should anyone ever seriously contemplate writing my biography before or after I pass from this mortal coil. I draw on this preface and my several comments below and make it into the second appendix of my memoir, adding as it does a few pages to this autobiography.

"In the spring of 1985," Daniel Horowitz writes, "I began to research a chapter on Vance Packard for a book on the response of American writers to affluence in the years after World War II. I interviewed Packard in the spring of 1986 and in that summer went to Pennsylvania State University to examine the material he had deposited there, covering the period since 1957. A year later, when the chapter had grown to ninety pages, I told him I might write a book on him alone, rather than just a chapter on him in a work that included chapters on others as well. When I arrived at his home in New Canaan for a second interview and entered his living room, he pointed to more than forty boxes of material, mostly for the period before 1957, and a tabletop copier. He informed me that he would act as my research assistant, helping to reproduce anything I wanted. Not long after that visit, I decided to write this book."

Horowitz goes on to explain in his preface why he decided to write the book on Packard. "I wrote the book," he said, "for several reasons in addition to the availability of the material in his living room and his willingness to cooperate. Ever since I began teaching in the mid-1960s, I have taught widely-read works by writers trained as journalists, such as William H. Whyte, Jr., Betty Friedan, Alvin Toffler, Anthony Lukas--and Packard. As I thought about doing this book, I realized how long and how seriously I had considered the questions raised by the careers of journalists: the complicated relationship between reader and writer, the distance that separated authors who were professors from those who were not, the challenges that faced a free-lance writer in America, and the impact of best-sellers on popular consciousness and, in turn, on social movements."


My Note:


If any person expressed interest in writing my biography, some outline and analysis of my life, I would like to be able to introduce such a person to the corpus of my published and unpublished work: my 300 notebooks, 35 volumes of letters, emails and internet posts amounting to some 10000, some 77 booklets of poetry numbering over 7000 poems, my several volumes of published and unpublished essays, attempts at novels, inter alia. The writings of others in my many notebooks might be useful to such a biographer and, if used, they would keep such a person as busy as a beaver for some time. If Providence dictated that I had met my demise by the time such a person arose, I would like to think that this future biographer would be introduced by some future executor of my estate to boxes of what are now on shelves in my study and in an adjoining room.

"In the years since 1986," Horowitz continues in his preface, "Packard has cooperated with me eagerly and fully. He sent me material he had discovered. He suggested people I could talk to and then called in advance of my arrival, encouraging them to speak freely. He answered my questions and responded to my requests for more documentation and for verification of facts. Again and again, he displayed the fundamental personal decency that his friends had mentioned to me. His assistance has made my task both easier and more difficult. Easier, because he placed in front of me none of those stumbling blocks that living subjects often put in the way of inquiring scholars. More difficult, because of the abundance of the material he uncovered and because of the sense of gratitude that I felt toward him."


My Note:


Packard died in 1996 and the exercise that Horowitz initiated took ten years while Packard was alive. It is my hope that I might reach the age of 100, thus providing a period of some 40 years for such a biographer to arise. But, as I intimate above, I am not holding my breath, simply outlining a perspective, a direction, for possible future excavation of a life. Often, when writers are gone from this terrestrial domain, they are left alone. As W.B. Yeats once said in the Irish Senate in 1925, "I would hate to leave the dead alone." With Yeats, then, I live in hope that in the long range I shall not be left alone and what I have written may yet have its place of relevance. But this is the case only if such a biographical effort would enhance the progress, the experience, the meaning, of the Cause to future generations. I have been identified with this Cause for more than the critical half century of its history at the very start of the Kingdom of God on Earth, 1953-2003 and what very well may be many more years in the second half.


"Despite his generosity, this is not an authorized or official biography, as I understand those adjectives," Horowitz emphasized. "For this to have been such a book: (a)Packard would have had to initiate the request that I write about his life; (b) he would have to grant me exclusive access to material, and (c) he would have to reserve to himself the right to read and comment on what I had written before it appeared in print. None of these conditions have obtained. In April 1988 we signed a simple agreement that gave me nonexclusive rights to draw on his papers. Except in the case of my use of one short document, Packard never asked to see what I was writing, nor did I offer him the opportunity to do so."



My Note:



The above paragraph summarizes the three preconditions of what makes a biography "official." None of these three conditions are ever likely to exist insofar as my life is concerned, or so it seems to me in these middle years of my late adulthood. An official biography or even an unofficial one is simply not a likely occurrence in my lifetime. I would leave the selection of an official biographer, should such a situation ever arise after my death, to my executor or executors and those mysterious dispensations of Providence. I am merely suggesting the broadest of frameworks here and doing some initial mental excavation and anticipation for what might eventuate in the future.

_______________________

"As I proceeded," Horowitz went on, "I came to understand one of the reasons Packard respected my autonomy as an author. As a magazine writer from 1942 to 1956, Packard faced editors who carefully monitored what he wrote, often making sure that he changed the words that would appear under his name in order to suit the needs of his employer. When he emerged as a self-employed writer in 1957, he cherished his freedom to write as he pleased. Throughout his life he has remained a committed civil libertarian. I am sure there are other writers who, though they prize their own freedom of expression and fight to preserve it for others, would abandon these abstract principles when confronted by someone who is writing about them."



My Note:


Packard worked as a journalist from 1937 to 1957 and then as a full-time writer of books until he published his last book in 1989. I worked as a student from 1949 to 1988 and as a teacher from 1967 to 2005 writing various genres of material from the fifties to the early years of the new millennium. Over the years 1983 to 2007 I increasingly devoted my time to writing, first essays and articles in newspapers, in-house tasks for employers and poetry for my own taste and after 1999 virtually full-time work as I writer. There was always a high degree of professional sensitivity on the part of supervisors, employers, newspaper editors and academics regarding my writing. When I became a full-time writer in the early years of the 21st century I only had to please myself and, inevitably, internet moderators and posters where I placed much of my work. One could not just write willy-nilly whatever came into your head: one was always one's own editor with an eye on the audience and my emotions on what I might call "a wide range of sensitivities.".



Of course, given the present and temporary system of Bahá'í review, a system which I welcome and one which engages the trust and the affection I possess for my fellow Bahá'ís who must implement it, a system which casts a shadow on the good name of the Faith in the eyes of certain non-Bahá'ís,1 I too have no difficulty in abandoning such abstract principles of freedom of expression, the right to write what I please, confronted as I am by this system of review. Such an attitude on my part requires me to view the Administrative Order as the context for a moderate freedom, for the very "structure of freedom for our Age."2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1 "Extracts from Letters of the Universal House of Justice On Issues Related to the Study of the Baha'I Faith," Bahá'í Canada, May 1998; and 2 "Letter to the Followers of Bahá'u'lláh in the United States of America," The Universal House of Justice, May 29th 1988."

_________________________

"Though many of our conversations focused on his public life, Horowitz went on, "and our talk never became personal, he shared with me his thoughts, experiences, and memories. He still has a reporter's commitment to accuracy and an ample capacity to recall details and events. What developed over time was a somewhat formal and, I think, mutually respectful relationship. Sometimes as I returned home, I wondered what Packard thought of this historian who had entered his life and persisted in asking questions that were sometimes obvious and other times unexpected. He was, after all, a skilled interviewer himself, more sophisticated than his colloquial talk and unassuming manner suggested. In addition, in the past few years he has been writing a book in which he reflected on his life and work.


"At moments he would jokingly talk about how he was trying to get me to show his life in a favorable light. For example, at the end of a letter in which he mentioned the considerable prescience with which he had written for forty years, he remarked, "The self-cheering goes on." 1 At other times he sent me signals that I interpreted as encouragement to offer a frank appraisal of his life. He once forwarded a marked-up copy of a review of Sally Bedell Smith's biography of William S. Paley. Packard underlined a number of passages, including some with quite negative statements about Paley's life. For example, he highlighted a passage where the reviewer noted that Paley emerged in the book as a "toweringly small man: insecure, petty, jealous, ungrateful, snobbish, . . . a philanderer" and also "a tyrannical father. . . a pathological liar; abusive, resentful, cruel, neurotic, hypochondriac, self-absorbed, tightfisted and greedy.'' 2 In the accompanying letter, Packard remarked, "Here is a good example of why well-researched biographies have a much better reputation as good reads than autobiographies, which, unless they are confessional, are usually suspected, with good reason, of being efforts at image protection and enhancement."


My Note:


As much as I would want to avoid the problem of image protection and enhancement in my autobiography—and I think I have gone a long way toward doing so by means of: (a) my moderate confessionalism, (b) the Australian habit of playing the self down and exhibiting a certain honestly felt tiredness with life and (c) my difficulty, also an Australian trait, of going in for consistent self-delusion—some of these natural, if somewhat odious, qualities slip in. I should also add that, if any person takes the slightest interest in writing my biography, my relationship with that person would inevitably be different than that between Horowitz and Packard. There are also a range of people in my life who would offer some quite different views of myself. Some of these people are close and intimate: my wife, step-daughters and son. Several work colleages and some of those of whom I write, Bahá'ís and others would also offer differing perspectives. But I leave this to and for biographers. There is little doubt that the views of others would provide some useful perspectives. If a biographer does not arise, say, in three generations, there will be no one on Earth who will have even known or met me by then.


"Vance Packard and American Social Criticism" was published in the early years(1994) of my own serious writing ‘career' which one could say developed by insensible degrees over as many as forty years(1952-1992) but really got going in the Holy Year(1992-1993). It differs markedly from what Packard might have written of his own life. Horowitz writes, still in that preface, "I well understood that my task was to present my interpretation of his life and work, not his view. Though in correspondence and interviews he offered me his own views, I incorporated them into the text only when I believed they illuminated the past I was trying to recover. I suspect that he will want to correct some statements that I make, but I hope that most of those will concern issues of interpretation and few of them, questions of fact. Grateful as I am to him, in the end my commitment is to offer a book that both acknowledges and evaluates his contribution at the same time that it sets his life and writing in their historical contexts."


My Note:


Clearly, too, whatever some future biographer might write on my life will differ from my own autobiography, memoirs. By that time, I trust, I will have gone to those retreats of my compassionate Lord and be the recipient of His mercy and forgiveness forever and ever. I will have forsaken this swiftly passing world and soared away to unseen realms.--July 10th 2006



I have added below an additional number of appendices taking the total to fifteen. Some autobiographers outline detailed statements on their sleeping patterns, eating and drinking habits, interest/hobby activities, job/duty statements, detailed descriptions of their relationships with individuals. Some of these they place in appendices. My additional appendices are as follows:


Appendix 3:


This appendix consists of the following essay:


Ron Price, "Omissions and Changes Are Not Accidents: Erasures, Cancellations, Additions, Deletions and Alterations in Ron Price's Manuscripts: A Hypothetical," Unpublished Manuscript, 2006.


Most of the omissions in my work are not intentional, nor are they accidents. Indeed, very little that I have written is accidental. Although it must be said, that serendipity does come into my writing more frequently than I am myself aware want to admit or understand. Some skeptical observers may call this serendipity an accident.-Ron Price, June 1st 2006.


Sitting in some library at some future and hypothetical time at least 100 years after my passing, lets say about 2140, an imagined person is poring over erasures, scissorings, cancellations of various kinds in my letters, essays, poems, notes and diaries, cuttings, photocopies, pastings-in, notes at the side and in the text added for emphasis and comment. This imagined person comes across a few tamperings. They were tamperings that occurred both before and after Bill Washington applied his experienced editorial pen to this vast corpus of memoir-words in the years 2004 to 2007. Tampering with text has taken many forms and I can not possibly cover them all here and I make no attempt to be systematic. I just want to offer a general commentary on the subject.


In the more than 100 years since my passing in 2040 at the age of 96, I anticipate that only the occasional person might see fit to make some alteration to the original text. I must remark upon what I hope is the powerful effect of reading my manuscripts. Harold Boom, a late 20th century literary critic, declared after spending several weeks with my work that "there's something about the way Price's words go racing across the page, with the spaces between them, that change your idea of everything you've read before about the Bahá'í Faith in its first several epochs of the Formative Age, well, at least, the Formative Age from 1944 to 2044." I like to think that Boom was one of those I prayed for from the next life. I certainly like what Boom has said here.


My handwriting, where it exists, is relatively rare. Most of my material is in typed script of different kinds and styles. Likewise, the mutilations that might come to exist in the century after my demise, as I say, 2040-2140, are also likely to be rare. Readers cannot help but wonder what might provoke an earlier reader or readers to initiate responses creating the gaps in my documents or changes to the text.


If omissions are not accidents, as part of the title of this brief essay indicates, and as the opening quotation points out, then many inclusions are more than just happenings or accidents, as well. Erasures are rare because there is little in the text that is done in pencil. Cancellations of my words by hands other than my own are, as I have said, are also likely to be rare. Some editing will inevitably be done by others, perhaps half a dozen editors and friends to the many years of my collected writings. Who knows really; this is just a hypothetical to satisfy my own curiosity and sense of play. My own editing is only occasionally obvious. The erasures and cancellations are of various types, and I want to be clear that I have no desire to focus on each and every kind made by other hands or by myself.


To anyone familiar with my work they will know that since writing my first pieces in the 1960s and since keeping the works of others in that same decade, except for the inclusion of my mother's work back to the 1930s, my oeuvre is massive. I have written these words to provide a perspective on a possible future of my writings. It is a future which, as I say, is essentially hypothetical. Time will tell if it has any truth, any validity. It is just a play with the future, so to speak.




Appendix 4:


This short paragraph comes from a prose-poem I wrote on the subject of punctuation and editing and it draws on my reading of an article by Emma L. Roth-Schwartz, "Colon and Semi-Colon in Donne's Prose Letters: Practice and Principle," in Early Modern Literary Studies, Vol.3, No.1, 1997. After teaching punctuation and reading about the subject, off and on, for half a century, I concluded, as I wrote this autobiography, that I have little interest in making statements about my use of punctuation for future literary scholars. There are dangers, of course, in inattention given to punctuation both by myself and future students. There is damage done to sense and style by repunctuation, mine and others, for punctuation must be seen as an act of interpretation. I find that I sometimes punctuate different copies of the same text differently.

I certainly don't feel tied to the punctuation and phraseology that editors and scholars find in my work. Bill Washington, through his initial editing, set the stage for a punctuation style, a style that was mine but was made more consistent through his professional efforts. Some writers do not want editors to change anything. I am not of that ilk. My hope is that future editors may yet come close to that happy state of affairs in punctuating and editing my work, a state described by Francis Clement in 1587 in which he says that with punctuation "the breath is relieved, the meaning conceived, the eye directed, the ear delighted, and all the senses satisfied."1 This is also true of good editing.-Ron Price with thanks to 1Anthony Graham-White, Punctuation and Its Dramatic Value in Shakespearean Drama, University of Delaware Press, Newark, 1995, p.46.

Appendix 5:

A RECORD OF BOOKS READ OR PARTLY READ

IN A 53 YEAR PIONEERING LIFE: FROM 1962 TO 2015

It is impossible for me to make an accurate record or even a reasonable guesstimation of what might be called my reading record since 1962, my matriculation year, the start of my pioneering experience, to the present time, some 53 years later. I have made a start at such a record, such a rough guesstimation, though. And here it is:

A. Books Read(i.e. scan): 10,000
B. Books Partly Read(i.e. skim) : 20,000
_____________________________Total:25,000

: 4,00
D. Poems Partly Read 6,000
E. Articles Read: : 10,000

F. Articles Partly Read(1/4 or more) 50,000
____________________________Total : 70,000
Ron Price Feb. 8th 2007

Appendix 6:

A Study in Time Management: April 1999 to April 2015---Retirement

A.1 FIVE CATEGORY TIME DELINEATION/ALLOCATION FOR STUDYING AND WRITING EACH DAY

The statistical information below attempts to outline the time I spend on a daily, monthly and yearly basis at the tasks I have set myself to accomplish, in the form of goals or as a result of serendipitous activity, during the first eight years of retirement. The data below is a guesstimation only for I did not keep precise daily statistics. Since I must attend to various domestic tasks, community activities, family, Bahai and 'other' matters it would appear that the 6 to 8 hours per day is about the most realistic average time allocation spent at reading and writing.

CATEGORY NO OF HOURS % OF MONTH AT EACH LEVEL

1. Super-efficient : 8 hours 12%
2. Very Efficient : 7 hours 32%
3. Efficient : 6 hours 38%
4. Good : 5 hours 10%
5. Poor : 4 hours 8%

A.2 STATISTICAL TOTALS:

HOURS/DAY AND HOURS/MONTH

Number of days at the above five levels in a thirty day(month) period is a guesstimation only:

1. 3.6 days @ 8 hours= 30 hours
2. 10.0 days @ 7 hours= 70 hours
3. 14.0 days @ 6 hours= 84 hours
4. 1.4 days @ 5 hours= 7 hours
5.  2 days @ 4 hours= 8 hours
Total: 30/31 days = 200 hours
Total: 200 hours/month; or 200/30= 6.7 hours per day.= 47 hours/week

Another 360 hours(1/2 of total time) is devoted to sleep and rest

B. LIST OF MAJOR ACTIVITIES & TIME ALLOCATION:1999-2015

1. Reading and Writing(as above : 30%
2. Domestic & Family Activities : 16%
3. Outside: Social, Walking, etc. : 4%
4. Sleeping/Being in Bed, Ablutions : 50%……..Total: 100%

C. DETAILS REGARDING READING AND WRITING ACTIVITIES 1999 TO 2015 IN B.1 ABOVE:

(this needs revision)

From August 1999 to August 2015, exactly 16 years, I wrote:

1. Three books: (i) Roger White's Poetry: 350 pages, (ii) Autobiography/memoirs: 2500 pages, 3 volumes and (iii) My Website: 650 pages, an estimation. Total: 3500 Pages.
2. 22 booklets and of poetry, some 1000 poems(approx.)
3. When not working on a book or writing in some other genre I:(a) read, (b) make notes, (c) reorganize my files & systems, (d) post internet items and develop these WWW resources and (e) engage in one of ‘B: items 1,2 & 3' above.

D. BREAKDOWN OF ACTIVITIES ON DAILY BASIS IN SECTION B.1 ABOVE

1. READING AND WRITING:

1.1 Writing letters and emails-1
1.2 Reading-2
1.3 Writing-Autobiography-1
1.4 Updating Notebooks-2
1.5 Posting/Responding on the Internet-1
1.6 Writing Prose/Poetry-1

The time allocations above over an 8 hour day are very broad guesstimations only.

E. CONCLUDING STATEMENT

The above provides an overview of the new arrangements, the new time allocations in my life in the years 1999 to 2007 since retiring from the teaching profession and what had been in the decades before living a life within the great work/home, school/home divide with its extensive involvement in: Bahá'í community activities, formal employment, raising children and studying in formal education programs, inter alia. All statistics/data above are guesstimations only and how long this new picture will last into the years of my lateadulthood and oldage is difficult, impossible, to estimate.--Ron Price April 21st 2007

Appendix 7:

A NOTE ON CHOOSING ONE'S LITERARY EXECUTOR

Edward Gibbon is best known for his enormous book on The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. For a man who wrote so much on this one subject he showed admirable restraint in his memoirs. His memoirs can be found in one volume that almost disappears beside the large tomes that make up his History. Gibbon himself never put together the autobiographical pieces he wrote upon finishing his life's work. These autobiographical parcels were first collected in a decorously edited volume by Lord Sheffield, Gibbon's literary executor. Unfortunately Lord Sheffield showed far too much restraint in his editing. He excised practically anything that anyone might find offensive. This is yet another example, of the many, why some writers regard editors as a useless sort of breed who should not be allowed much more activity in their lives than to correct spelling mistakes and grammar and why authors must take the utmost care in choosing their literary executors. I do not share that concern for editors that others do. Mine is a more modest concern.

This sentiment, this concern, may be true in relation to Gibbon's autobiographical work. It was also a concern of my mother's brother insofar as the editing my mother did of her father's autobiography. But it is not an accurate overall view of what editors generally do and what their roles entail. In the hands of a good editor the work of any author can find a good home. Such is my hope. Lord Sheffield's cutting diminishment of Gibbon's text was only discovered long after the fact. Sheffield covered his tracks well. Only in 1894, a century after Gibbon died, when Gibbon's papers were made public, was the magnitude of the editorial interference revealed.


Since that time the work has been refashioned by a number of editors. Almost all contemporary editions include all that is good in Gibbon's autobiography. Lord Sheffield's version was a great success. The later and complete versions are even better. -Ron Price with thanks to ‘The Review of "Memoirs of My own Life,"' by Edward Gibbon in The Complete Review, 2000.


There are many other articles on ‘literary executors' which I have kept in my journal and, should future executors be interested in some of my views in more detail they are free to read them, but are under no obligation to do so. Taken together they provide a more comprehensive view of just how I see the ideal editor. For now, though, I am happy to proceed with the editing work of Bill Washington with no caveats aside.


Appendix 8:


Part 1:

This brief essay draws on the "Preface To The Electronic Edition, Writings of Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, 2002; and 2 Writings: Washington to James Craik, 25 March 1784. The preservation of Washington's papers was a subject never far from his mind. Washington was born in 1732 and died in 1799. His deathbed instructions to his secretary Tobias Lear in December 1799, to "arrange and record all my late military letters and papers . . . and other letters,"1 were only the continuation of a practice that Washington had begun as a young man when he began saving his incoming letters as well as copies of most of his outgoing correspondence.


It was not until the years of my middle age that I began, at first insensibly, to take an increasing interest in the preservation of my papers. In the last decade of that middle age, from 50 to 60, 1994-2004, that interest took a more serious, a more organized form. In the 25 years preceding that middle age, my years from 15 to 40, 1959 to 1984, the year I joined this new Faith until my second year north of Capricorn, the collecting of letters gradually assumed a proportion from no interest to a significant one.


Washington, at the age of 52, immediately after the American Revolutionary War(1775-1783), declared that no history of his life, "could be written with the least degree of accuracy, unless recourse was had" to his papers for information.2 The American Revolution was a period of momentous events and Washington did, indeed, play a significant part. This is equally true of these days, of my life in the 8th, 9th and 10th stages of history from a Bah&aacut perspective. They are momentous days. But given the nature of the global theatre in which the Bahá'í revolutionary program is being implemented and the thousands of people whose lives are as significant, if not more so, than my own, it could be seen as presumptuous to compare myself to the famous American George Washington. My intention is to contrast a significant and famous individual in history with the ordinarily ordinary person who is also a member of the Bahá'í community.


It is in this contrast, with some elements of useful comparison, that the following prose-poem finds its place. I have been simply one of the links in the chain, one of the soldiers in the field, one of the threads, part of the very warp and weft of the Bahá'í community in the first half century of the Kingdom of God on earth(1953-2003), one of the many participants in the first stages of the transatlantic field of service of the North American Bahá'í community, a testing period of apocalyptic proportions marking the lowest ebb in humankind's fast-declining fortunes during the weightiest spiritual enterprise in recorded history.


Washington spent much of his time organizing and copying his papers. He even went so far as to plan a separate building near his mansion house for their safekeeping, although that plan remained unrealized at his sudden death in December 1799. After my retirement in 1999, two hundred years after Washington's death, I spent some time, on and off over five years, organizing my own papers into some framework. By the time I was 60 that framework required little attention, little further organization, only the occasional reorganization, the occasional refinement and adjustment.


Part 2:

Comprised of more than 17,400 letters and documents in thirty-seven volumes, plus a two-volume index, John Fitzpatrick's work on Washington's papers was a monumental achievement by any standard. Fitzpatrick's experience in the Library of Congress, which owns the single largest collection of Washington manuscripts, more than 60,000 documents, had ably prepared Fitzpatrick for the herculean effort necessary to bring out an edition of that scale over such a short span of time.


Whether my own letters and documents, my papers and poems, ever find a home in some voluminous collection is not my worry or concern. I have spent a little time placing them all into some ordered arrangement and I leave it to my executor, the Bahá'í community and those mysterious dispensations of Providence which I mention from time to time in this now lengthy work to do with them what they will. -Ron Price with thanks to the 1Preface To The Electronic Edition, Writings of Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, 2002; and 2 Writings: Washington to James Craik, 25 March 1784.


The greatest of all arts—

the management of the mind

and the art of living1

can be acquired in part

from letters and papers,

poems and essays in the

great archives of history.


The playful spirit, the light,

humorous touch, the portrait

of a mind, the spontaneous

and unique expressions of

personality, of indiscretion

and virtue scrawled across

the pages of these papers—

but what inducement to any

preservation? To possess

a part of me? Surely not!>

To enjoy fine examples

of writing? Surely not

in a world drowning in

the written/spoken word.

To have the pleasure of a

vivid picture of a character

and person with glimpses

into his life? What value?

So much of life contains only

the insubstantial correspondence

that we might call telephone talk.

And what value is this, pray tell?

To paint one of the threads

of the warp and weft

of the Bahá'í community

as the Kingdom of God on earth

was being born and developed

in its first half century—now that

art work, dear friends, is of value!

1G. Birkbell Hill, editor, Letters of Samuel Johnson, Clarendon Press, 1892.

Ron Price November 19th 2005


Part 3:

I have always liked the way Arnold Toynbee describes the spread of a divine, a fundamental, impulse in society. It is like a light caught from a leaping flame, an inspiration caught in peoples' souls, a spark which gives light unto all who are in the house, a light whose influence is felt "even at points that are astonishingly remote from the centre of radiation." I first came across this Toynbeean paradigm in the mid-1960s at the outset of my pioneering life and it fits the Bahá'í paradigm and at the same time paints my own work in an eloquent perspective.


Bahiyyih Nakhjavani writes in her fine essay on the artist and the seeker that "our greatness rests not in ourselves as much as in our ability and desire to circle around the great." It seems to me in life we all select the ones we want to circle around.


Any writer who aspires to a wider audience, even an autobiographer like myself, has a number of role models to chose from. So let me say a little here about the selection from my role models from outside cognitive neuro, though I have tried to select something from what they have said that sketches meaning over the terra incognita of life. This allows me to create in comfort, as part of a promising, operating, model, part of an infinite series of experiments in an effort to realize the vision of the oneness of humankind and as part of a force with an important role to play in the future of humankind.


The Central Figures of the Bahá'í Faith, my role models, indicate that there is a map for my journey, humankind's journey; there is a goal in the journey and vague sentiments of good will, however genuine, are not enough. The map and the goal has been elaborated in the first century and a half of the existence of these Figures and their authorized interpreters, in a massive body of print. My role models circumambulate, skirt around this body of print. I could, and I do, select scientists and writers in the arts for my models and many do serve as such models for the exercise I am involved with. Some of those that have made a sustained effort at popularizing science and literature and commented on a larger scene, a large sphere, and created a significant niche have played an important part in the evolution and elaboration of my own ideas, values and beliefs. But these people from the sciences and arts are not my models for fundamental philosophy and value systems that I share with others in community, that are my reasons for community. For agreement on principles in writing what I write comes from community and, even when there is agreement on principles, coordinated action is not easy


Finally, before I close this appendix #8, let me say something about the general situation that the average person is now in with respect to information. He or she is awash with data of many kinds. I am often told about some amazing new fact or invention and when I ask the source of that bit of knowledge, am told by the person: "I read it" or "I saw it on TV". Usually the person recounting the story cannot inform me whether the information came from an academic journal, a science program on TV, the Oprah Winfred Show or perhaps an ad on TV. In some ways the source matters and in some ways it doesn't. Information becomes validated simply because it exists. The information climate has become complex, absurd, burgeoning and wonderful all at once. Educators, entrepreneurs and politicians sing the praises of the potential benefits of the information revolution—and I do too. This autobiography has been significantly aided by this revolution as has my life in general. But what I also see, and I see it every day and have for decades, is a shattering of the world we once knew through fragmentation and an explosion of information into bits and pieces.


People are much more aware of the globalization of the world but, at the same time, they no longer understand the significance of this interdependence and interrelationship and how their lives and the things they consume are linked to everything else in the world. We are no longer aware, for example, of the sources or producers of food, clothing, material goods. The links are vague and often completely unknown. Much of the world's goods are simply objects to be purchased without knowledge or care for the condition of the workers who laboured to make them available, the ecological costs of their harvest, manufacture and transportation. I have tried in this autobiography to draw together some of the links, some of the connections, tried to overcome some of the fragmentation of life, my own life, into some coherent whole. By bedtime so often my brain like many another brain-billions perhaps--in my complex world had become a mush of factoids. Some anchorage to a central, a spiritual source, some context that informed me why it mattered at all, was critical, at least critical for me. And I have written of this theme over and over again in this autobiography.


The one thing television—this queen of the consumer durables--cannot tolerate is dead air because the viewer is armed with a channel changer and the attention span of a hummingbird. It is not unlike the real life of any person and it is a central problem when one goes to write autobiography—a lot of the time in life is "dead time." There is little going on and little if anything that can be said about this time. TV producers , directors, owners and advertisers all end up competing for viewers by being more raucous, outrageous, shocking, unexpected, entertaining, etc to capture and hold a fragmenting audience. The victim of all this is reality.


Part 4:

Conscious as I have been for many a year of the fragmentation of the audience that might read this book and conscious, too, that I am not ever likely to attain celebrity status, acquire a mass market or get up-front in the print and electronic media--I needed an established way to reach whatever audience I could. Attention is a precious commodity, and people tend to rely on trusted gatekeepers, such as magazines, newspapers, television. This is breaking down somewhat, with the web's ability to bypass them and this is what I have done, simply bypassed the mass for the fragments since I first got this book into some marketable shape in 2003. I have also developed a certain skepticism about, a lack of appetite for, celebrity after more than fifty years of being exposed to its many forms.


I have been on guard, too, as an autobiographer that I don't slip into the same slot as mass media people of trying to get readers. I must confess that I am not completely innocent. As information channels have opened up and computers access information anywhere on the planet, programs have become increasingly short, strident, loud, kinky, sensational or violent in order to keep an audience. And there is much that is good. I hope, in this autobiography, that I exemplify more of the latter, more that is good, than the former.


The "op-ed" pages of local newspapers provided me with a place for well-written articles of about 700-1000 words. This is an entry-level niche that didn't exist several decades ago. I could not have broken into such a market in the 1960s or 1970s. I was at that time too busy, too sick, too married, too jobbed and not sufficiently matured as a writer. But by the 1980s I was able to sort a few things out in my personal and professional life and in the 1980s I was able to break into that market with some 150 essays in newspapers. This market expanded in the 1990s and in this new millennium with the extension of web portals having editor-selected commentary. In the last three years, 2003-2006, I have found many an essay, article, comment niche for getting my pieces out there and it is here that I have placed much of this autobiography.


In many ways what I am doing in this autobiography is simply extending what I did as a baby, what all babies do. The first sign that babies are going to be human beings and not noisy pets comes when they begin naming their world and demanding the stories that connect its parts. Once they know the first of these they will instruct their teddy bears, enforce their world views on victims in the sandlot, tell themselves stories of what they are doing as they play and forecast stories of what they will do when they grow up. They will keep track of the actions of others and relate deviations to the person in charge. They will want a story at bedtime. Nothing passes but the mind grabs it and looks for a way to fit it into a story, or into a variety of possible scripts.


I try to represent and present the world, my world, both truthfully and beautifully. The task is not easy. It is not easy to be truthful or present the picture as a place of beauty. When I read Balzac or Dickens I get a strong sense that they do not believe the world to be a beautiful place. They wish to console their readers with an encouraging picture of how the world ought to be. Dickens stops short of describing in full detail the depths of despair to which poverty drives the people of London, because he does not want to cause his readers pain, or show them something repulsive. Balzac is both entertaining and truthful, but he does not remain true to his personal vision. The comedy in their works is overcome by the suffering world.


Part 5:

Dostoevsky takes some of their techniques and themes, but his personal vision is different and this vision guides his stories. He adds the strange, tragic beauty of St. Petersburg to the bittersweet comedy of the realists. In the process he introduces a new world of people redeemed within a Christian cosmology and their suffering world. They are not defeated by it. As a Christian writer, he saw the world from "the standpoint of the central Christian mystery: that it has, for all its horror, been found by God to be worth dying for". There is some of this in the Bahá'í mystery. I deal with some of this mystery in this autobiography and I leave some to readers.


The world I present in this autobiography is the one I experience and the cosmology I believe in. My world view is a Bahá'í one, not the Bahá'í one but a Bahá'í one. It has much of a view of life as pure mental activity somewhat like that of H.G. Wells; the activity of the intellect and the senses, creative will and imagination has much to do with the world I see and live in. This is partly the romantic temperament speaking. The evil I see in the world is not so much due to stupidity, as Tolstoi saw it, but man's lower nature which manifests itself in many ways of which stupidity is but one. Health, energy and joy is certainly at the core of my Weltanschauung, for I know what life is like when one of these three key ingregients is missing. For years, like D.H. Lawrence, Maupassant and Blake, I saw sexual love and the fuel of sexual activity as a sort of nirvana.


We need the sciences and the arts, more and better sciences and more and better arts, not for the technology, not for our leisure time, not even for our health and longevity, but for the hope of wisdom which our kind of culture must acquire for its survival. This book, I trust, is but one very small part in that process of acquiring wisdom.


An account from the days of earliest passenger railway in 1830 enthuses that:You can't imagine how strange it seemed to be journeying on thus; without any visible cause of progress other than the magical machine, with its flying white breath and rhythmical, unvarying pace, between these rocky walls, which are already clothed with moss and ferns and grasses; and when I reflected that these great masses of stone had been cut asunder to allow our passage thus far below the surface of the earth, I felt as if no fairy tale was ever half so wonderful as what I saw.(Quoted in Humphrey Jennings, Pandaemonium: 1660‐1886, The Coming of the Machine as Seen by Contemporary Observers (New York: Free Press, 1985) This sense of the fairy-tale has continued into these four epochs with even more intensity but the fairy-tale has been moderated by the sense of holocaust and tempest--leaving humanity bewildered and often agonized and helpless.


Appendix 9:


ORIGIN AND PURPOSE OF THIS EPIC POEM


Part 1:

I remember reading how both Arnold Toynbee and Edward Gibbon acquired the initial inspiration and conceptualisation for the magnum opus of their lives: A Study of History in the case of Toynbee and The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in the case of Gibbon. Three years ago I began to think of writing my own epic poem and fashioned some ten pages as a beginning. The poetic work of my own life, my epic, I have come to see in terms of all the poetry I have written, the poetry I have sent to the Bahá'í World Centre Library and what I have entitled Pioneering Over Four Epochs. T.S. Eliot observed toward the end of his life that he could not be called a great poet because he had not written an epic. Of course, if indeed I be a great poet, it will not be because I have written an epic but in spite of it. Whatever greatness accrues to my writing, prose or poetry, it will be due to my association with the Bahá'í Faith and the relevance of my writing to the development of the Bahá'í Faith over four epochs.


Classical scholar, J.B. Hainsworth says that "the defining feature of an epic is that it combines expansiveness of form with greatness of soul and a clear focus on a central theme of universal appeal." Hainsworth goes on to say that this combination was first achieved in the Iliad where a concise and focussed narrative centered on the idea of heroism. While I would not want to make any claims to greatness of soul, being only too aware of my limitations and weaknesses, my association with the great epic of our time embodied in the history of the Bahá'í Faith, gives to this work some of the reflected light of that great epic.


I have begun to see all of this poetry somewhat like Pound's Cantos which draws on a massive body of print, or the Confucian Analects, a word which means literary gleanings. The Cantos, the longest poem in modern history, over eight hundred pages and written over more than fifty years(1916 to 1968), are a great mass of literary gleanings. So is this true of my poetry. The conceptualization of my work as epic has come long after its beginnings. My poetry slowly defined itself as an epic after half a dozen years of intense and extensive writing and many more years, perhaps as many as thirty, of occasional writing. I began to see my poetic opus as one immense poem. I like to think this poetry creates one voice, a voice for future times, to the Bahá'í culture I've inhabited all these years.


Pound was twenty-nine when he began to write his epic. I was fifty three when I began to see all my poetry, poetry I began writing at the age of thirty-six or, perhaps, as far back as eighteen, as part of one immense epic. Pound was acutely conscious that the cultural, the historical tradition had broken down and he was searching for a new basis, "new laws of divine justice." His task was to reassemble this tradition or,at least, search in history where not only the fall from innocence was located but also the locus for the process of redemption could be found. I, too, was aware of this breakdown. I, too, felt the need to reassemble history, not as Pound did, but rather to find truths which were perennial but not archaic within the broad framework of a new Revelation from God, a Revelation which defined and described the continuities and was Itself a basis for redemption in this new and complex age.


Written now, for the most part, over a little more than eight years(1992-2000), the epic I am writing covers a pioneering life of 39 years. It also covers much more. I have now sent 39 booklets to the Bahá'í World Centre Library: one for each year of this pioneering venture. But the epic journey that is at the base of this poetic opus is not only a personal one of over forty years back to the time I became a Bahá'í, it is also the journey of this new System, the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, which has its origins as far back as the 1840s and, if one includes the two precursors to this System, as far back as the middle of the eighteenth century when many of the revolutions and forces that are at the beginning of modern history have their origin: the American and French revolutions, the industrial and agricultural revolutions and the revolution in the arts and sciences.


Generally, the way my narrative imagination conceives of this epic is itself an attempt to connect this long and complex history to my own life, as far as possible, to that of the religion to which I belong. I have sought and found, in recent years, a narrative voice that contains uncertainty, ambiguity and incompleteness among shifting fields of reference and of a certainty mixed with and defining itself by the presence of its polar opposite, doubt.


Since this poetry is inspired by so much that is, and has been, part of the human condition, this epic it could be said has at its centre Life Itself and the most natural and universal of human activities, the act of creating narratives. When we die all that remains is our story. From a Bahá'í perspective much is taken on into the eternal realm and whatever part we have played in the advancement of civilization is also left. But that part is often obscure, especially in the case of the ordinarily ordinary person which I have been on this mortal coil.



Part 2:

I have called this poetic work an epic because it deals with events, as all epics do, that are or will be significant to the entire society. It contains what Charles Handy, philosopher, business man and writer, calls the golden seed: a belief that what I am doing is important, probably unique, to the history and development of this System. This poetry, this epic, has to do with heroism and deeds of battle in their contemporary and historical manifestations. It involves a great journey, not only my own across two continents, but that of this Cause as it has expanded across the planet. The epic convention of the active intervention of God and holy souls from another world; and the convention of an epic tale, told in verse, a verse that is not a frill or an ornament, but is essential to the story, are found here. I think there is an amplitude in this poetry that simple information-giving lacks; there is also an engine of action that is found in my inner life more than in its external story. In some ways, this is the most significant aspect of my work, at least from my point of view. Of course, in the end, it is really quite impossible to impute any significance to one's work. Such imputing must be left to the future and to others.



Such an imputation was made of the writing of Henry James the author of substantive autobiographical works in the last several years of his life. Le Roy Phillips wrote, eight years before the death of Henry James, that James was able to convey what people concealed within their inmost selves, what they really thought. This mystery of what might be called ‘an inner sight' is, I think, possessed by many in my world. Some possess it in a remarkable degree; indeed, it is manifest in so many different ways. Perhaps there is some of it here in this work.



In the Greek tradition the Goddess of Epic Poetry was Calliope, one of the nine sisters of the Muses. The Muses were the inspiration of artists. Calliope was the mother of Orpheus who was known to have a keen understanding of both music and poetry. We know little about Calliope, as we know little about the inspiration of the Muses, at least in the Greek tradition. In the young and developing poetic and artistic tradition of the Bahá'í Faith, on the other hand, although gods and goddesses play no role, holy souls "who have remained faithful unto the covenant of God" can be a leaven that leavens "the world of being" and furnishes "the power through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest."(Bahaullah, Gleanings, 1956, p.161.) In addition, among a host of other inspirational sources, the simple expression ‘Ya'Baha'ul'Abha' brings "the Supreme Concourse to the door of life" and "opens the heavens of mysteries, colours and riddles of life." Much could be said about inspiration but I shall leave the topic with the above brief analysis and comment.


Mary Gibson says in Epic Reinvented: Ezra Pound and the Victorians(Cornell U, 1995, p.96) that one question was at the centre of Pound's Cantos. It was the "question of how beauty and power, passion and order can cohere." This question was one of many that concerned Pound in the same years that Bahá'í Administration, the precursor of a future World Order, was coming to assume its embryonic form in the last years of the second decade of this century, a form that would in time manifest those qualities Pound strove in vain to find in a modern politico-philosophy.


At the heart of my own epic is a sense of visionary certitude, derived from a belief in an embryonic World Order, that a cultural and political coherence will increase in the coming decades and centuries around the sinews of this efflorescing Order. Wallace Stevens' sense of the epic "as a poem of the mind in the act of finding what will suffice"(Jay Parini, editor, the Columbia History of American Poetry, Columbia UP, NY, 1993, p.543) is also at the centre of my conceptual approach. This epic is an experimental vehicle containing open-ended autobiographical sequences. It is a didactic intellectual exploration with lines developing with apparent spontaneity and going in many directions. The overall shape is in no way predetermined. In many respects, this long poem is purely speculative philosophy, attempting to affirm a romantic wholeness on a fragmented world, something Walter Crane tried to do in the 1920s. This long poem, or seemingly endless series of poems, is an immense accumulation of fragments, like the world itself, but they are held together by a unifying vision. So,too, was Pound's epic.


Pound was intent on developing an "ideal polity of the mind". This polity flooded his consciousness and suggested a menacing fluidity, an indiscriminate massiveness of the crowd. The polity that is imbedded in my own epic does not suggest the crowd, probably because the polity I have been working with over my lifetime has been one that has grown so slowly; the groups I have worked in and with have been small. My style, my poetic design, though, is like Pound's insofar as I use juxtaposition as a way to locate and enhance meanings. Like Pound, I stress continuity in history, the cultural and the personal. At the heart of epic poetry for Pound was "the historical." Also, for Pound, was a new world order based on the poet's own visionary experience. It was part of the reclaiming job that Modernist poets saw as their task, to regain old ground from the novelists. But, unlike Pound, I see new and revolutionary change in both the historical process, in my own world and in the future. The visionary experience that will guide world order is not mine, but that derived from the Central Figures of my Faith.

Those who are quite familiar with the poem Leaves of Grass may recall that Walt Whitman often merges himself with the reader. His poem expresses his theory of democracy. His poem is the embodiment of the idea that a single unique protagonist can represent a whole epoch. He can be looked at in two ways: there is his civic, public, side and his private, intimate side. While it would be presumptuous of me to claim, or even to attempt, to represent an entire epoch, this private/public dichotomy is an important underlying feature of this epic poem (Harold Bloom, The Western Canon, Harcourt, Brace and Co., NY, 1994, pp.447-78). I also like to think that, while this poetry has a focus on my own experience, this experience is part and parcel of the experience of my coreligionists around the world.


In my poetic opus, my poetic epic, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, the reader should sense a merging of reader and writer, a political philosophy, a sociology, a psychology, a global citizen--something we have all become. There is in my poetry a public and a private man reacting to the burgeoning planetization of humankind, the knowledge explosion and the tempest that has been history's experience, at least as far back as the 1840s, if not the days of Shaykh Ahmad after he left his homeland in those halcyon and terrifying years of the French Revolution.


Part 3:

There is much more than verse-making here, though. Here is the ruling passion of my life: the Bahai Faith, its history and teachings. It seemed to wrap and fill my being during my pioneering life, the process beginning as far back as 1953 when my mother first heard of the Faith. Indeed, I came to see myself as part of what ‘Abdu'l-Bahá called that "heavenly illumination" which flowed to all the peoples of the world from the North American Bahai community and would "adorn the pages of history" (Citadel of Faith, p.121). My story inevitably became part of that larger story of the Bahai Faith and, again, that larger story which is history itself. Stephen Sicari suggests that the structural principle in Pound is "the search for unity." If I had to define the structural principle behind my own sharply fragmented, multifarious material with its vivid multiplicity and diversity, it would be my attempt to express the unity I found and that I believe lies behind and in the world of creation.


For it is the narrative imagination that is at the base of this epic poetry. As far as possible I have tried to make it honest, true, accurate, realistic, informed, knowledgeable. As I develop my story through the grid of narrative, I tell my story the way I see it, through my own eyes and my own knowledge, as Bahá'u'lláh exhorted me in Hidden Words. I leave behind me traces, things in the present which stand for absent things in the past. The phenomenon of the trace, Paul Racour writes, is similar to the relationship between lived time and astronomical time, a relationship at the basis of calendar time. For history is "knowledge by traces", as F. Simiand puts it (Paul Ricoeur, "Narrative Time", Philosophy Today, Winter 1985). And so, I bequeath my traces.


The traces I bequeath are also, to continue an important theme of the epic tradition, those of the wandering hero. It is a hero, a wanderer, with many dimensions described in many contexts. It is a journey of redemption to union with God, as it was for Dante. It is a journey of adventure and finding my home, as it was for Odysseus. It is a journey that attempts to embody my vision of the Bahá'í world order, as the poet Virgil tried to articulate his vision of Augustus' order during the crucial years of the establishment of the Roman Empire(29-19 BC). It is a personal epic, a personal journey, an inner journey, within the tradition of William Wordsworth and his Prelude. There are elements of the Miltonian epic here with the foregrounding of the author, his weaknesses and his strengths, in what is par excellence, a theological-religious journey. And there is the monumental journey of Bahaullah over forty years which acts as a metaphorical base for my own journey. The wanderer I draw on is, in other words, a flexible, elastic, figure who allows me to include in my epic poem virtually anything that I want to include in the text.

And so the wanderer that I describe in my epic is a composite. But this wanderer is not in search of the Path; rather, he has found the Path and the wandering takes place on the Path. The wandering through the sea of historical, sociological, literary and other texts, books and articles, etc. is all part of the experience, the context, the definition, of the Path, for this particular journeyman. For the reader will come across many references, many texts, many quotations here. They are laid on a Bahai-paradigm-map; I am not alone, as Pound was, relying on his own wit and courage with no framework of guidance and meaning within which to sift history's and experience's immense chaos into some order. I find that the actual writing of the poem assumes characteristics of the epic journey itself. This was true for Pound, for Dante and, in all likelihood, the mythical Homer.

Part 4:

It may be that my journey on this Path is only half over and that this epic found its initial conceptualization at the mid-point of my Bahá'í life. If I live to be ninety-five, my journey within this framework of belief passed the half way mark (age 15 to 95, a period of eighty years)at the age of 55. So I like to think that what I have now, after only eight years of intense writing of poetry, is what Pound had: "a dazzling array of finely wrought fragments straining in their own unique way to achieve order and unity" through the deployment and development of this image of the wanderer in its many forms. That is what I like to think. Time will tell, though, if I can sustain and define in precise and dazzling terms the structural, the organizational, principle enunciated above. This structural principle is based on a view of my poetry as: the expression of my experience, my sense, my understanding, in the context of my wandering, my journey and of the concept of the Oneness of Mankind. Can I continue to develop this epic, beyond the start I have given it, to a satisfying conclusion in the years ahead?



In the earliest stages of my own epic I think these words of Sicari aptly describe my own position, my view of my own epic. The nature, even the existence, of affinities between my own epic and the artistic forms called epics that have come into existence in the last three millennia did interest and concern me, though this may not concern students of my work should they one day arise. I should add, parenthetically, that Pound's pre-Cantos poetry(before 1917) is a meditation on and an investigation of his own identity. This is equally true of my own poetry in the years before I conceived my writing as epic, that is, the years before the autumn of 1997.



I would like to add, in conclusion, that this journey, this epic, is experienced as a weight or, perhaps, to use the words of the Universal House of Justice, as a "solemn consciousness." Whatever joy, pleasure and meaning I have experienced has grown out of this wellspring. But all is not "beer and skittles" as my mother used to say. There is a dull pain at the heart of life, the heart of our existence and to deny this pain is to deny life, indeed, it is an offense against life and it encourages a certain asphyxia of soul. I often tend to think that the denial of life's inner tension is a significant part of our ordinariness and cowardice, our sleeping selves, our consciously anti-hero stance. The vanities and cupidities of our life must be faced and, in some ways, we face them all too easily. The transcending of our ordinary self is also at the heart of this epic. And I'm never quite sure how much transcending I've done.




Appendix 10:

OUTLINE OF RON PRICE'S COLLECTION OF POETRY

What follows is an outline of the titles of the booklets of my poetry and the dates when the poetry in these booklets was written. I have also included a brief description of where I have sent these poetry booklets. There are some six thousand three hundred and fifty poems in this collection and some two million words. Five thousand of these poems are in the Bahá'í World Centre Library. In these fifty-nine booklets there are 27 years of poetry, 1980-2007, written after nine years on the homefront(1962-1971), nine years internationally(1971-1980) as a pioneer. During those 18 years of writing the occasional poem none were ever kept.


A. Booklets:


This poetry is divided into several sections named after the several stages associated with the construction of the Shrine of the Bab and the beautification of the surrounding properties. These several sections of poetry are entitled: The Tomb's Chambers, The Arcade, The Golden Dome, The Terraces and The Mountain of God.


BOOKLET NUMBER / NAME OF BOOKLET/ PERIOD WHEN WRITTEN



1. THE TOMB'S CHAMBERS:


---August 1980 to 2 March 1987


The above booklet of poetry was not sent to anyone or any group. It was kept as part of my personal juvenilia. But, after twenty-five years in the pioneer field, the following booklets of poetry were sent to the Bahá'í World Centre Library or some Bahá'í institution or community.


2. THE ARCADE


1June 1987 to 22 August 1992


3 THE GOLDEN DOME


2                                           Pioneering Over Three Epochs                   2 January 1992 to 22 December 1992

3                                           Swiftly Changing Tides                                                       4 January 1993 to 22 April 1993

4                                           The Priceless Treasury                                                       22 April 1993 to 5 July 1993

5                                           A Yet Greater Impetus                                                       11 July 1993 to 29 August 1993

6             The Darkest Hours Before the Dawn 4 Sept 1993 to 11 November 1993

7                   Instruments of Redemption 12 November 1993 to 30 December 1993

8                   In Ever-Greater Measure                                                 1 January 1994 to 20 April 1994

9                   Time Capsules                                                       27 April 1994 to 11 September 1994

10             The Emergence of a Bahá'í 18 September 1994 to 28 November 1994

                              Consciousness in World Literature

11                   Intensest Rendezvous                               4 December 1994 to 14 December 1994

12                   Soldiering On                                                       16 December 1994 to 5 January 1995

13.1             Vista of Splendour                                     23 March 1995 to 4 May 1995

13.2             The Prelude                                                                         4 May 1995 to 30 May 1996(?)


4 THE TERRACES:


14                                           Mysterious Forces                                                                         1 June 1995 to 29 June 1995

15                                           Apple Green                                                                                                 2 July 1995 to 10 September 1995

16                                           The Hunt for Ground Cover                               13 September 1995 to 3 December 1995

17                                           Emerald Green                                                                                     7 December 1995 to 23 January 1996

18                                           The Strong Room                                                                         26 January 1996 to 8 April 1996

19                                           Tapestry of Beauty                                                                         9 April 1996 to 30 April 1996

20                                           In Loving Memory                                                                         3 May 1996 2 June 1996

21                                           Ivy Needlepoint                                                                                     6 July 1996 26 August 1996

22                                           Tender Packages                                                                         30 August 1996 to 3 November 1996

23                                           The Art of Glorification                                                       6 November to 8 January 1997

24                                           Canada's Glorious Mission Overseas 10 January to 14 Feb 97

                                                      (sent to IPC of the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada)

25                                     A Small Contribution...Befitting Crescendo 19 Feb to 25 May 97

                                                      (sent to the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Australia)

26                                           An Imperishable Record of Int'n Service 26 May to 31Aug 97

                                                      (sent to several LSAs in southern Ontario)

27                                           At the Crest                                           3 September 1997 to 28 November 1997      

28                                           Elegance                                                             29 November 1997 to 4 January 1998

29                                           A View from the Roof Garden             6 January 1998 to 2 Feb 98

30                                           Lines, Curves and Concentric Circles 3 Feb 1998 to 13/4/98                               31                                           Silver Green and Grey...and Flame Orange 14 April 98 to 7/8/98            

32                                           As Elegant As                                                 8 August 1998 to 9 November 1998

33                                           Panorama Road's Monumental Gates 7 Nov 1998 to 10 Jan 99

34                                           Impression of a Deeper Curve 12 January 1999 to 18 March 99

35                                           Cascading Down                                                             20 March 1999 to 16 May 1999                                                                                                                              

36                                           Who Is Writing the Past?                               18 May 1999 to 6 July 1999

37                                           The Field Is Indeed So Immense 29 August 1999 to 9 July 99

38                                           This Dawn and That Dawn             31 October 1999 to 31 August 99

39                                           Epic                                                                         1 November 1999 to 25 December 1999

40                                           A Celebration of Forty Years             27 Dec 1999 to 15 March 00

41                                           A Bahá'í Poet of the 4th Epoch 22 March 2000 to 18 May 2000                        

42                                           39                                                                                                       19 May 2000 to 12 September 2000

43                                           Finished At last                         14 September 2000 to 31 December 2000


5.       THE MOUNTAIN OF GOD:


44                               Fifty Years from F.O.G.             30 December 2000 to 13 April 2001

                                                            (sent to the IPC of the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada)

45                               Thirty Years of International Pioneering 14 April 01 to 12 July 01

                                          (sent to the IPC of the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada and the NSA

                                                                                    of the Bahá'ís of Australia)

46                                     Forty Years of Pioneering: 62-02 13 July 2001 to 15 Nov 02

47                                     Some Poetry from the Fifth Epoch 20 Nov 2001 to 30 Jan 2002

                                                      (sent to the Bahá'í Institute of Learning for Western Australia)

48                                     Out From Under the Bushel       31 January 2002 to May 14 2002

                                                            (sent to the Bahá'í Centre for South Australia)

49                                     The Fiftieth Anniversary Plus One 2 June 2002 to 30 Aug 2002

                                                            (sent to the Bahá'í Centre for Canberra in the Australian

                                                                                          Capital Territory)

50                                     Twenty Years On                   7 September 2002 to 5 November 2002

                                                            (sent to the Bahá'í Council of the NT)

51                                     Forty Years On                               6 November 2002 to 21 March 2003

                                                            (sent to the Bahá'í Council of Victoria)

52                                     Half Way Point in the Five Year Plan:

                                                      A Poetic Note Struck                         22 March 2003 to 21 October 2003

                                                            (sent to the Bahá'í Council of Queensland)

53                                     This Rising Vitality                               19 December 2003 to 27 July 2004

                                                            (sent to the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Burlington Ontario)                  

54                                     Pioneer's Report:In Memory of Lulu Barr 11 Aug 04 to 16/3/05

                                                            (sent to the Bahá'í Community of Hamilton Ontario)
55 Pioneer's Report: In Memory of Nancy Campbell, Fred & Lillian                                                             Price March 21st 2005 to July 26th 2005.
                                                            (sent to the Bahá'í Community of Hamilton Ontario)
56 Pioneer's Report: In Memory of Jameson & Gale Bond & Dorothy Weaver                               27 July 2005 to August 31st 2005
                                                                  (sent to the Iqaluit/Frobisher Bay Bahá'í Community)
57 In Loving Memory of George Spendlove
                                                                  September 2nd 2005 to December 9th 2005
                                                                  (sent to the Toronto Bahá'í Community)
58                                           The Inner Life and The Environment: A Gateway not a Carpark
                                                                        December 20th 2005 to April 9th 2006
                                                                  (sent to the Bahá'í Council for Tasmania)
59                                           Steeled Through Experience April 12th 2006 to Nov 30 2006
                                                                        (sent to the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada)
60 Untitled As Yet
                                                                        December 6th 2006 to April 12th 2007
                                                                        (recipient undecided as yet)
B. Some Background Information on the Booklets:


The booklet entitled Warm-Up: The Tomb's Chambers was not sent to the Baha'I World Centre Library(BWCL). It contained some 35 poems. I kept this booklet in my study. But after 25 years in the pioneering field, this poetic inclination increased and, unable to publish my poetry in the secular press, I sent it out to Bahá'í institutions in Canada and Australia. The following paragraphs describe how and who and when and where.


The next several booklets of my poetry were not given titles originally, as far as I recall; and, although they were placed in covers, they were not initially given what has become the standard format for each of my booklets of poetry, the plastic folder/cover. I eventually gave titles to all the booklets and each one is in a plastic cover in my personal collection. I hope, too, that one day the pages can be numbered, a table of contents for each booklet can be arranged and an index can be provided to cover all the poetry. This is a somewhat daunting task given the sheer quantity of material. There were, until the last years of the first decade of the 21st century relatively few readers of my poetry. But, by 2015, I had millions of readers, and there was developing a need to complete such an exercise for publishing and marketing purposes. However great the need, though, such a marketing and publishing exercise was not likely to occur as the years of the first century of the Formative Age(1921-2021) were closing in less than a decade.


Booklets 1 to 23 were all sent to the BWCL. Booklet 24 was sent to the International Pioneer Committee of the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada in celebration of eighty years of the revelation of the Tablets of the Divine Plan and Canada's glorious mission overseas. Booklet 25 was sent to the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Australia in celebration of the contribution of overseas pioneers from other countries to the Australian Baha'I experience, the fortieth anniversary of the spiritual axis and the Guardian's last letter to Australia. Booklet 26 was sent to the LSA of the Bahá'ís of Burlington, to be shared with several LSAs in Southern Ontario, where I became a Bahá'í in the 1950s and enjoyed some of my initial Bahá'í experience in the early 1960s. I sent Booklets 27 to 43 to the BWCL.



Booklet 46 celebrated forty years of my pioneering life: 1962-2002 and was presented to the Regional Bahá'í Council for Tasmania to celebrate its first year in office. Booklet 45 I sent to the International Pioneer Committee(IPC) of the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada and the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Australia in celebration of my thirty years of international pioneering, Booklet 44, entitled Fifty Years From F.O.G.,(an expression used in Canada for ‘Feet-on-the-Ground.') sent in April 2001 to the IPC of the NSA of the Bahá'ís of Canada celebrated the current fifty years of international pioneering, the current situation of international pioneers in-the-field beginning with Alan Pringle in Costa Rica who arrived there in 1951.



Booklet 47 was sent to the LSA of the Bahá'ís of Melville to celebrate the first anniversary of the opening of Western Australia's new Bahá'í Centre of Learning which opened in May of 2001. Booklet 48, celebrates the first anniversary of the opening of the new Bahá'í Centre on Brighton Road in South Australia and Booklet 49 the opening of the Bahá'í Centre in Canberra and the beginning of the second half century of Bahá'í experience in Australia's national capital. Booklet 50 was sent to the Bahá'í Council of the Northern Territory thanking them for including my History of the Bahá'í Faith in the NT: 1947 to 1997 in their newsletter ‘Northern Lights.' Booklet 51 was sent to the Bahá'í Council of Victoria in celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the election in 1963 of the Universal House of Justice. Booklet 52 was sent to the Bahá'í Council of Queensland to mark the half-way point in the Five Year Plan, October 2003. Booklet 53 was sent to the Bahá'í community of Burlington Ontario, my Bahá'í community of origin, in celebration of more than forty years of pioneering experience initiated within that community. Booklet 54 was sent to the Bahá'í Community of Hamilton as a ‘Report from a Pioneer' and in memory of the first Bahá'í in Hamilton in 1939, Lulu Barr. Booklet 55 was sent to the Bahá'í Community of Hamilton as a ‘Report from a Pioneer' and in memory of Nancy Campbell and my parents who served on the first LSA of Dundas in 1962. Booklet 56 was sent to the Bahá'í community of Iqaluit in Memory of Jameson and Gale Bond and Dorothy Weaver and a celebration of a decision forty years ago to pioneer among the Eskimo/Inuit. Booklet 57 was sent to the Toronto Bahá'í community 37 years after I left to pioneer. Booklet 58 was sent to the Bahá'í Council for Tasmania in celebration of the opening of the new Bahá'í Centre in Hobart in 2007. Booklet 59/60 was sent to the NSA of the Bahais of Canada. Booklet 61, recipient undecided as this point. I leave it to readers with the interest to find out what happened to the booklets 61 to 75 that are now in existence.



C. Concluding Comment:



The above outlines twenty-six years of poetic activity, poetic writing, that has taken place for the most part in my second twenty-five years in the pioneering field. As I bring this up-to-date, we are 60% of the way through yet another Plan, a Five Year Plan(2011-2016). I look forward to more years of writing as we head toward the completion of the first century of the Formative Age in the next 7 years (2015-2021). I have now completed more than a half century of pioneering, 1962 to 2015. I hope that whoever comes across this poetry gets some pleasure and insight from the experience.

Ron Price February 2015

Appendix 11:


LETTER-POEMS: A BLENDED GENRE



"Letter-Poem, a Dickinson Genre" does not contend that Emily Dickinson was the only or the first poet to use letters to transmit poetry, to formulate letters as poetry, to exploit the poetic and epistolary so that they inflect, enrich, even become one another. Keats and others of Dickinson's forebears, as well as a host of her descendants, have come to blend the genres in various ways and for a wide range of purposes resulting in an even wider range of effects. I have come to see some/many of my own letters in a collection now spanning some 40 years as a blend of genres.



In his 1958 introduction to The Letters of Emily Dickinson, Thomas H. Johnson remarked that it was difficult to tel where the letter leaves off and the poem begins" A decade later, when my own collection of letters was taking its first form, Dickinson's eminent biographer Richard B. Sewall identified producing "letter-poems" as a familial as well as an artistic practice: "Dickinson's father's (Edward) sister, Elizabeth, was not only the chronicler but the bard of her generation in the family. She once sent her young nephew Austin a rhymed letter of fifty stanzas on his toothache" (Life 32). Sometimes Dickinson enclosed poems on a separate sheet with a letter; sometimes poems, especially to Susan Dickinson, constitute the entire text of a letter; sometimes a few lines of a poem recorded in the fascicles or in another letter or on a sheet not bound to any manuscript book, either literally with string or figuratively by being sent to a particular addressee, are woven into the prose of a letter.



The following questions could easily be asked of both Dickinson's poems and letters and mine: "What counts as a "poem" and what counts as a "letter?" and "How useful is the appellation "letter-poem" which foregrounds the genre traditionally devalued as "lesser" and "private" when compared to "poems"? And, a final three questions"



1. "What criteria should be used for distinguishing between "poems," "letters," and "letter-poems" and how useful are those for analyzing Emily Dickinson's artistic project and mine?



2. What sorts of insights result from the twentieth and twenty-first-century conventions of marking some manuscripts as "private" and some print documents as "public"? How are critical understandings and interpretations constrained by these conventions equating the "public sphere" and the origins of print culture?



3. What sorts of insights are enabled by conventional genre distinctions between the epistolary and the poetic and what critical understandings and interpretations are constrained by these conventions of genre reinforced by print bookmaking?





I leave readers of this autobiography with these questions, questions I have not answered myself, but questions that have serious implications for this autobiography which draws on poetry, letters and narrative in extensive measure. I leave readers, too, with the following two items: a statement on Bahá'í literature in general and a short essay introducing my correspondence with Roger White. And with this my autobiography is nearly concluded, although I may add an epilogue to this epilogue. We shall see.



APPENDIX 12:



I began giving thoughts in some organized way to my own funeral at the end of the Bahá'í Holy Year, in fact, quite specifically on April 19th 1993. I was 14 months short of my fiftieth birthday. At the time I had been attending more funerals than I had ever done in my life to that point, in those six years since arriving in Perth.


Forty days before the last day of the Holy Year(May 29th 1992-May 29th 1993), on April 19th 1993 then, I decided it was timely to write my own eulogy and to put on paper some kind of statement of 'final words,' to be used in the event of my death. In January 1993 I had drawn up a formal Will. I was nearly 48 at the time. Previous Wills, going back to my late teens, had become out-of-date. Now, thirteen years later in 2006 it seemed timely to revise that initial statement and type it into my computer for ease of access and future use, perhaps in my memoirs.



I have divided this statement into three parts: (A) my material estate, (B) actions to take on my death and (C) my eulogy. These statements now follow:



A. MY MATERIAL ESTATE:



A.1 Clothes, Books and Other Personal Effects



I leave these things to my wife and son to dispose of in any way they desire.(see formal and official Will witnessed in July 2002)


A.2 Personal Writings


I like to think that this great mass of material would be of some use to the Bahai community. It could be sent to the nearest LSA archive, the Tasmanian Centre for Learning archive or the National Bahá'í archive in Sydney. Again, I leave this to my wife and son to work out. I may, at some future time, discuss this question with the various Bahá'í institutions concerned and have this issue determined/clarified before my passing. But I have not yet done this. (See formal and detailed statement in the file with my offical Will and in the bottom drawer of my desk for further guidelines on this subject).



B. Actions to Take on My Death:


1. Send an email to my relatives in Canada care of my cousin Joan Cornfield. Joan is my mother's brother's daughter, age 73 in 2006, living in Georgetown Ontario. Her email address is: joanc@aztec-net.com In addition, send an email to my cousin David Hunter at: bdhunter@sympatico.ca. He lives in Ottawa Ontario.



2. Send an email to The Universal House of Justice:

secretariat@bwc.org



The words could be as follows:

"Ron Price, Canadian pioneer on the homefront from 1962 and international pioneer to Australia from 1971, passed away on__________ from_______."


3. Send an email to the NSA of the Bahais of Australia, Inc:

secretariat@bnc.bahai.org.au


4. Send an email to the NSA of the Bahais of Canada

5. Send an email to Judith Noack, my first wife.

Judith.noack@sympatico.ca



6. Buy a tombstone and have it marked as follows:


Ron Price 1944-20


Bahai Pioneer:1962-20


7. Pray for my soul from time to time.


8. Organize a funeral service to your taste following (a) the guidelines in the funeral director's kit and (b) the supervising LSA's specifications.



C. My Eulogy:



My wife or son are free to read the following personally composed statement in full, in part or not at all as they so desire. "It is conventional for a eulogy, if one is read or spoken at all, to be composed by a person other than the deceased. And if any person or persons would like to say something about me and my life they should feel free to do so at this funeral service. But after listening to several eulogys at several funerals and going to funerals as far back as 1956, both within and without the Bahá'í community, I decided for a time to write my own last words. The first draft of such a statement was written at the end of the Bahá'í Holy Year of 1992-1993; I had been a pioneer for some thirty years at the time. I made the occasional alteration over the next thirteen years and on 27 December 2006 I wrote what I hoped would be the final words on the subject, the final words to a statement that might go into the first hard cover copy of my memoir. These sorts of statements are very subjective and one's thoughts and feelings change with the seasons, with the years. Who knows what might eventuate insofar as a final statement by me in the years and possibly decades that remain.



"The first statement I wrote in 1993 was three pages long of double-spaced typing. The second and what I thought at the time would be my final statement was just a simple poem. It was called 'reincarnation.' I don't believe in reincarnation. I have no desire to return to this earth in any form, but I liked the poem. It suited my taste at the time. In the end, in October 2004, I decided against the idea of a eulogy or the use of that poem. That is how things stand at present as I organize this series of appendices to my memoir.


My motivation to write a eulogy, a motivation that existed for over a decade, was due to the overstatements I had listened to at funerals. My mother felt the same way back in 1965 about the eulogies she listened to at my father's funeral. I was 21 at the time and did not understand her sentiments but, now that I am the same age as my mother was then--in my early sixties, I can appreciate her complaint and desire for a more honest but kind set of final words.



"If things went according to the death notices," wrote novelist Erich Remarque, "man would be absolutely perfect. There you find only first-class fathers, immaculate husbands, model children, unselfish, self-sacrificing mothers, grandparents mourned by all, businessmen in contrast with whom Francis of Assisi would seem an infinite egoist, generals dripping with kindness, humane prosecuting attorneys, almost holy munitions makers - in short, the earth seems to have been populated by a horde of wingless angels without one's having been aware of it."



I leave the funeral exercise in the hands of those who loved me and the LSA that assumes the responsibility for its execution. The following prose-poems, while not serving as a eulogy, will serve as some concluding words to this appendix.



APPENDIX 13



IDENTITY



The purpose of autobiography as the recreation, as the nostalgic closure or as the simple delineation of a life is without doubt. But it is also a search for some clearer understanding of the autobiographer's identity. Such a literary exercise thus involves a significant psychological dimension, further reflected in its concern with the interface between the active, public self of a life and its more contemplative private equivalent side by side. Since autobiography constitutes a process of investigation rather than a finished product, it is, inevitably, open-ended. Until my early retirement at the age of 55 in 1999, my identity was tied-up with my career, my family and community life and far, far back in fourth place was my writing life fitting itself into corners that saw the light of day when necessity or some selected sense of duty and pleasure called.



In the last ten years, 1999 to 2009 though, my life as a writer and poet, an editor and publisher has shaped my life and my identity. As the poet e.e. cummings once wrote, if the artist does not shape his or her identity to their work their life will crack open. My life had already cracked open several times before my early retirement and with the medication I acquired for my bipolar disorder during this last decade and as I entered my 60s, I think I have seen the end of my life cracking open—but it is not in the main because I am free at last to write.

My religious identity as a Bahá'í acknowledges the place of history, language and culture in the construction of my particular subjectivity, my particular sense of who I am. I also acknowledge that all discourse, all writing, is placed, positioned and situated and all of my knowledge is contextual. I find it helpful, fertile, useful if this way of looking at my Bahá'í identity is contested, subjected to a dialectic, if it arises from an assertion of a difference, a clash, of opinions. In this way my identity develops from, is clarified by and is based on a process of engaging and asserting difference rather than suppressing it. This identity acknowledges the reality of decentralised, diffuse and sometimes systematized knowledge; it acknowledges a sense of power which also has a diffuse set of sources and at the same time accepts the useful concepts of periphery and centre, margins and depths, surfaces and heights in the expression of that power. Once we clarify the notion of identity, once it is redefined in a universal and non-derogatory way, once it engages difference without implying superiority and hierarchy, it is hoped that this will help the Bahá'í community express its group consciousness, help it to develop in a manner which is unfettered by the accrued and often inaccurate associations of history and culture, tradition and ignorance.



My identity and my autobiography is wrapped up in, is part and parcel of, my search for and experience in a collective solution to the problems of our age. This collective solution is presented to me as both a moral imperative and the logical consequence of reason applied to my intelligible, and I trust intelligent, rendering of history and the nature of my society. The measures needed to cure the ills of civilization are identical with those needed to cure the individual but these measures must be practiced in a social milieux. Indeed the social milieux, the social interaction within the social order revealed in the Bahá'í scriptures, is the workshop for both my individual fulfilment and for the collective solution that I am a functioning part of by my free choice. Individual identity and a more inclusive identity as part of a social structure, as a world citizen are inextricably conjoined.



There are so many ways of looking at identity. One popular view is expressed as follows: What really shapes and conditions and makes us is somebody only a few of us ever have the courage to face: and that is the child you once were, long before formal education ever got its claws into you--that impatient, all-demanding child who wants love and power and can't get enough of either ...It is those pent-up, craving children who make all the wars and all the horrors and all the art and all the beauty and discovery in life, because they are trying to achieve what lay beyond their grasp before they were five years old."



My autobiography which in many ways is a series of depictions of my identity is presented as a pastiche of many types of writing: first, second and third-person point of view narration, the use of the past as well as the present tense, letters, newspaper articles, speeches, lists, historical accounts, scientific jargon, definitions, photographs, recipes, conversations, obituaries, wedding announcements, telephone conversations and assorted memorabilia. The inclusion of all these kinds of writing, all these genres of writing both loosens and strengthens genre boundaries and points to blurring and cross-pollinating between genres as being more useful.



In writing my memoirs, my autobiography, I am defining myself because I am putting consciousness into text. In some ways I'm exploring personality, trying to understand myself better and at the same time I'm opening up personality. I'm writing out of personality and it's my canvas in a sense. I could never have written my memoirs and get a handle on my identity without postmodernism, without the licence to collapse generic conventions and see myself as many selves. I like the idea of calling my work a novel and then to define it further as creative non-fiction. But, again, I must emphasize, the overview of all of this life-narrative, the general context, the total orientation, the moulding and remoulding of my world, is in the form of a conscious participation, often on a very small scale, in the forming of a new society. The context is one of commitment, of solitude and solidarity.



My identity is also bound up with an appreciation of the past, with history, with tradition. All of these things are necessary to a full life, a life which develops organically rather than one which is radically cut off from its roots. The roots of my society are Judaeo-Christian and Greco-Roman and the new Faith that has inspired my life and which is at the centre of my identity has a rich appreciation of these two roots.



But however I express my identity I leave the final word here with Virginia Woolf who once wrote: "I sometimes think only autobiography is literature--novels are what we peel off, and come at last to the core, which is only you or me."



APPENDIX 14: SOME POETRY AND SOME COMMENTS ON:

THE RON PRICE COLLECTION



GLAD TIDINGS



It is the freshness of the child's approach to experience that you need to cultivate as a writer.-Carmel Bush, Dear Writer: Revised and Expanded, 2nd edition, 1996(1988), p.58.



This poem was written after attending a wedding of a former student of mine, Alister Wilson, at a Church of Christ on Beaufort Street in north Perth.-Ron Price, 4:50 pm, Saturday, 5 July, 1997.



One comes to churches from time to time

when a wedding or a funeral takes place

and one sits in a pew with light streaming

in from overhead, after centuries of dealing

with light, sitting beside strangers, the myriad

strangers, the special sub-set found at weddings

and funerals, people just like me, all so different,

yet hardly distinguishable, as we go down life's

road to the end, to a new beginning where the light

of the Great Beyond will define more precisely who

we are and who we have become. Here we must always

remain forever a mystery to each other and to God,

some flotsam and jetsam thrown together in curious

combinations, given a temporary immortality

in this fixed place of the Evangel.


1 Evangel means glad tidings, an appropriate term for a wedding.



CONCLUDED DAYS



Another Emily Dickinson poem, number 735, lies behind this composition. She examines in her poem what she calls her(and our) "concluded days". She was in her early thirties when she wrote her poem. I examine below my(and our) "concluded days" from the vantage point of my mid-fifties. I have been impressed, at the many funerals I have attended in the last decade, by the sense of joyfulness, cheer, happy spirits evidenced, almost like a good-bye party. This was also the case as far back as the first funeral I attended in the Bahá'í community, my father's in 1965. In other funerals I have attended, the balance went toward sadness and somberness, an atmosphere of gloom. Getting the balance right is difficult. So, too, in life there should be the right balance, in the contemplations of one's days, between the sweet and the sour memories. The ‘quiet centre' contains, it seems to me, a balance of this light and shade, gain and loss, victory and defeat, honey and poison. For everyone the mix is different.



As our days grow to their ends,

flavours and temperature

emerge from our contemplations:

some tastes are sweet and warm

and some are cool and sour,

some weigh heavy on our hearts,

a burden carried,

a lacerated throat;

some make for garlands-

a coronal-

and, then, at the funeral,

on that dying side

we are saluted:1

hail and farewell!



Ron Price

24 March 1999



1 And so we should be saluted for having survived these difficult days with all their piercing ambiguities and, perhaps, in this case anyway, told of the tale. I wrote this poem in the last two weeks of my tenure as a permanent full-time teacher.



A DELICATE CONCOCTION



A poet ultimately constructs a world, a quite autonomous universe, in his work. I have done this in my body of poetry. This world is at once: personal, historical, futuristic, intimately connected with a body of religious beliefs, philoosophy, literature and poetry as true to reality as I can make it. The construction is not unlike the coming of spring. Something fresh and new is seen, heard, tasted or felt. There is a ferment, a heat, an awakening; and the urge to write, a creative fever, is felt. I can't make it come. It is not orderly or coherent but, in the writing, in going into the mind's deep well, coherence and order is established, at least to some extent. For life's truths are multilayered, many-sided and complex and have an elusive aspect. The Apollonian aspect of poetry can only be partly attained; for there is a certain Dionysian element present when one writes poetry.

-Ron Price



There is an energy, longing, generated

by striving after an ideal. My poetry is

a giving of form to this energy, this striving,

an expression of an entire way of life,

an interpretation of the universe, a

perception, as penetrating as possible,

of some of the issues in existence.

The poet needs

serenity and gloom,

joy and melancholy,

quiet happiness and a smouldering anger

in a delicate concoction. Like the Greeks

we have an image of a world order

shared by all people in our community.



Ron Price

14 April 1999



A STRANGER



Bruce Dawe wrote an endearing little poem about getting to be known by the undertaker, the funeral director, the personnel at the place where funerals were conducted, probably in Toowoomba Queensland where he lived for many years. He had attended so many funerals there that he got to be well known by those who worked at the funeral parlour and the place of burial. Since I have moved around so much in life, thusfar, there has been no chance that I could have got to be well known or even recognized by any funeral director and his assistants in their "immortal grey suits." -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999.



I've attended funerals in so many places,

I've never got to be really known by undertakers,

or any of those polished dude

who drive the cars or

walk around in their grey suits.


I think it's fated that my face

will be a stranger

at such a final resting place,

where, one day,

I'll be out of life's danger.



Perhaps underneath the shade of trees

I'll watch some friends give out their pleas

that my soul may enjoy some pure water's fount,

be cleansed of all that was part of my earthly haunt

and behold God's splendour on a lofty mount.


Yes, I'll gaze down on such a scene,

I hope, and thank God, for what has been,

that the game is over and the fun

that all has been said and all has been done

and all has been heard and all has been seen.



And that now for me will be perpetuity,

perhaps a rose-garden

at the end of a sea of light

in a world of mysteries

and delight. ...Ron Price 15 October 1999



THE WORDS ‘HERE AM I! HERE AM I!'



Emily Dickinson writes "There is a finished feeling/Experienced at Graves-"(Number 856). Her short poem inspired my own which draws on a short passage from the Long Obligatory Prayer. -Ron Price



Death is tidy, in a box,

at funerals I see.

It has a finished feeling,

quite precise, eternal: be.


There is a leisure, too, that enters

in this wilderness of size.

This is where His footsteps start

and the words ‘Here am I! Here am I!'



Ron Price

4 January 1999



I'm sure it will go unnoticed anywhere in the world should a university, an academic institute, some centre for learning, indeed, one of any number of institutions, buy for a disclosed or undisclosed sum, the entire collection of my papers – all 1 to 3 tons of manuscripts, notebooks and letters. The 1001 boxes containing the definitive archive of this writer, poet, teacher, Bahá'í pioneer, Canadian-Australian, father of one and step-father of two, husband, among other roles acquired in his lifetime, are expected to take two years to catalogue, as a Curator of Literary Collections told Price once upon a time. Processing began shortly after acquisition, or perhaps purchase, and transporting from Price's study in Tasmania to the institution in Canada. Some portions of the collection will be made available to scholars within months of purchase.



The news of this acquisition has not been made widely public, mainly because it is not expected that there be significant interest in the collection. Anyone who is keen to examine the archive can drive down to its new location to get a sense of what this archive contains. The institution, I trust, will very kindly offer to display a sample of the material for anyone to see.



In the said Library at said institution handling a scrapbook in which I gathered my first documents from over 40 years ago in 1962, my first publications twenty years ago, a note of congratulations from several of my internet correspondents, a receipt of payment for my first royalty for my first book, the covers of magazines in which my work appeared. There is also sad evidence of my manic-depressive behaviour from time to time. There are few handwritten drafts of poems, although there are hundreds of pages of notes in his handwriting. Typewritten manuscripts can be found for all the six drafts of my book on the poetry of Roger White as well as my own autobiography in its five editions. There are over 6000 poems in 57 booklets.



The range of unseen material in this collection will keep scholars busy for years to come. Some of the personal correspondence will be closed for 25 years and the letters between myself and, say, John Bailey "might be viewed 100 years from now like the correspondence between Wordsworth and Coleridge". Professor of X says "it will help us hire new lecturers in the field who will have at their fingertips material that will launch their scholarly careers"on archives of this nature. My papers join those of X,Y and Z and a small collection from A, although A has not yet made my complete collection of papers available.



So why might my collection go to Canada and not to Australia at, say, universities in Sydney or Melbourne? The answer is quite simply that in 2134 McMaster Uni might be given $105 million in Coca-Cola stock which has been used to build a collection of manuscripts from contemporary poets. I can not be be quoted in a newspaper as saying that my papers "could not be at a better place nor in more congenial company". But there may have been two further reasons why I might be happy to have my papers in Canada. In Canada I have, as the American Price scholar Joe Jones might put it, "been skewered by the Canadian feminists as being the person who killed Cock Robin, and that is in no way accurate". Consequently, there has been little interest in my work there. Now it is clear that the future compilation of the Complete Poems and the Collected Letters will require much time spent in Canada. Everything is in place for a revival of interest in Canadian academia. McMaster is planning to offer scholarships to fund the study of my collection as an extension of the two currently available for work on their material written by Bahá'ís..



Secondly, my reputation in Canada deprived him of the pot of gold that Canadian universities have delivered to some others. This sale might have gone some way towards compensation for that. But the loss to Australia is sad. The fact is that Australian universities have been too aloof to seek the kind of private and corporate endowments that gave McMaster its purchasing power. In a recent TLS article Joey Towsim indicated that money is available to purchase papers for the nation, but that either university libraries or authors are unaware of it. "In the case of my papers, for example," Mount writes, "the dealer involved had already been rebuffed by the Heritage Lottery Fund in his efforts to secure Alan Sillitoe's papers for Nottingham." Mount suggests, however, that the sums available would not even have approached McMaster offer.



In 1996 my contemporary at Cambridge deposited my papers at Sheffield University where Harry Smith teaches. Smith was the first person to write a monograph on my work. This option was always open to me, although he'd have taken a lot less money. But were any Australian universities seriously interested in raising the money to keep this major twentieth-century archive in Australia? More recently McMaster has added to their archive my my work my letters to John Bailey from 1996 to 2011, and 400 manuscript drafts of poems from the late 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. All this later material was in private hands and thus not previously available for study. The result is that future scholars of my work will be going to McMaster and swallowing the power of Coca Cola. Certainly there could be no better place for their conservation, and future collections of my material will now join the original 1 to 3 tons from Devon. It may be an advantage to scholars to have all the material in one place for the work that is to come. -Ron Price with thanks to Terry Gifford, "The Fate of Ted Hughes's Papers," poetrymagazines.org.uk, No 14, Autumn 1999. 1100 boxes is, of course, a guesstimation.



APPENDIX 15: BAHA'I LITERATURE: 1907-2007



I'd like to make a short summary statement, a sort of postscript to some 6000 prose-poems I have written since 1980. It is a post-script not merely to this body of poetry but also to the incredible output of prose and poetry that has emerged from the Bahá'í community in the century since the heart of the troubled times of ‘Abdul-Baha's ministry1 to today: 1906-2006. I have sometimes heard it said that the twentieth century, in the matter of purely Bahá'í literature in English, has been dull and uninteresting; that it is even an uninviting domain. As a teacher of literature I have often heard this also said of Shakespeare and the Bible, especially the King James version. Another criticism I have heard is that most of the Revelation is, as yet, untranslated and unavailable and that we are still working with a small portion of the sacred text. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that, given the small percentage of translated writings from the original Persian and Arabic, it is really idle and unprofitable to spend one's time with what is available. It would appear to me, though, that the opposite is the case.



The 20th century saw an immense literature on the Faith become available to the Bahai community, too much for it to cope with. The staggering Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh and the body of sacred literature from the other Central Figures of the Bahá'í community, to say nothing from the literature produced by the trustees of that Revelation, the Universal House of Justice, as well as the commentaries from the body of believers became just about beyond the capacity of the individual to take it all in. Indeed individuals cannot; they must now pick and choose.



The 20th century to which may be credited translations of the major works of Bahá'u'lláh, innumerable writings of the Central Figures and the trustees of the sacred texts, the many secular commentaries, poetry, music in many forms and styles, plays and several other genres and forms of literature and the arts has laid a solid foundation for the future. In their present form Bahá'í literature and the several forms of expression in the creative and performing arts more than holds its own in the history of Bahá'í literature as against the centuries that have preceded it or will follow it as we traverse the years to the golden age centuries hence. Bahá'í literature is not deficient either in variety of utterance or in many-sidedness of interest. It is not merely full of the promise that all periods of transition possess, but it's actual accomplishment is, from my point of view, beyond criticism and its products are possessed of both beauty and relevance. -Ron Price with appreciation to Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, Wilmette, 1957, p.267 and thanks to "Political and Religious Verse to the Close of the Fifteenth Century," The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes: 1907–21, Volume II: The End of the Middle Ages at Bartleby.com, Great Books Online, 2006.



And finally a word about my correspondence with Roger White, unofficial poet laureate of the Bahá'í community in the 1980s, with whom I corresponded from 1981 to 1993.



I'd like to introduce one of my volumes of correspondence with Roger White by a short piece on the literary archives of a father who died at 55. The piece is written by the son, a Sebastian Matthews. By the age of 55 I had ‘died' to the world of employment, indeed much of the social world and I began to take seriously what I had never been able to do in the previous 40 years, 1959 to 1999: a serious commitment to writing. By my mid-to-late teens, 1959-1963, I could feel the intimations of academic, literary interests developing. The embryo had formed, but the experience had to wait before it could be given full reign. Health problems, sexual proclivities, marital and family responsibilities, spiritual and religious responsibilities, moving from place to place—the list of things that got in the road of my giving my energies fully to literary and academic interests, so to speak—was long. By my mid-to-late teens, too, I also began to organize my life in narrative terms. The first sketches of this life, this narrative, were vague and tenuous but the process clearly began in late adolescence and young adulthood.



The field of narrative psychology which began to develop seriously about the same time that I began to put pen to paper in the mid-1980s to write this memoir. This field emphasizes how human activity and experience are rooted in the feeling of meaning and that stories, rather than logical arguments or lawful formulations, are the vehicle by which that meaning is communicated. I won't outline the main theorists in psychology who have developed this theme but meaning, I recall as clear as if it was yesterday, was a critical variable to me as an adolescent.


Since my second marriage in 1975, four years after I arrived in Australia, the
concept of narrative has successfully travelled from literature into several new disciplines such as social sciences, law, psychology, theology and health studies. Narrative form is not a dress which covers something else but the structure inherent in human experience and action. But no elements enter our experience, we maintain, unstoried or unnarrativized.



I believe that the ways of telling and the ways of conceptualizing that go with them become so habitual that they finally become recipes for structuring experience itself, for laying down routes into memory; for not only guiding the life narrative up to the present but directing it into the future. I have argued that a life as led is inseparable from a life as told – or more bluntly, a life is not "how it was" but how it is interpreted and reinterpreted, told and retold. Narrative is everywhere in these our storied lives. I thank Bruner and others for their insightful analysis of narratives in our lives. I also thank David Malouf for expressing an aspect of my narrative life, namely, that in an important sense there is no beginning, middle and end to one's story and one's stories, and that much of narrative is accidental, unconscious, quite mysterious, written in a context of a writer's ‘puzzled attentiveness' and deriving quintessentially from emotional connections both in the writing, the telling and the living.



By the time my correspondence with Roger White was completed in early 1993, I could see the light at the end of my employment tunnel. Tired of much in the job and social domains I began to look forward to a period I could devote to writing, to the academic, to the solitary. In that year 1992-3 my poetry indeed did take off and for many years, until my retirement in 1999, I wrote over 500 poems a year. I thank Roger White for providing a literary inspiration, a sort of kick-start. "Letters mingle souls," wrote the poet John Donne. "More than kisses, letters mingle souls," Donne said. I like to think some of this mingling went on in my correspondence with White.


By definition death leaves unfinished business, wrote one Stanley Plumly. I am not sure what exactly is unfinished with Roger but I look forward to whatever eventuates in the world beyond in the language of there.





I have left this short piece of writing on 'archives' to the end of this autobiography because it may be particularly useful to my son Daniel or, perhaps, others involved as executors/friends in disposing of my literary estate. The article is from that piece I referred to above, that source: Sebastian Matthews, "My Father's Garden: Tending a Literary Legacy," Poets & Writers Magazine, 2003.


Sebastian Matthews writes that: "It would be an exaggeration to say my father, William Matthews, "arranged" his papers. On his death in 1997 manuscripts were found bound together with rubber bands; individual poems often had the name of the journal in which they first appeared handwritten in the lower-right corner; old essays were stored either in a filing cabinet or in one of the computer files on his ancient Macintosh. That was the extent of the order he kept. One box was full of student manuscripts covering piles of old tax receipts; another brimmed over with official correspondence—years of random letters from conference directors, editors, festival organizers, and department heads. Early drafts of a manuscript overflowed one box, while later versions hid in another. Random postcards popped up between manuscript pages. My father kept contradictory lists of poems he'd published in journals, which meant they all needed double-checking.


"After a full day of work, I still couldn't get a clear sense of the archive's contents. Entire decades of early correspondence were missing from this man who died at 55. I had been told by old friends that my father had engaged in ongoing correspondence with such poets as: W.S. Merwin, James Wright, Robert Bly, and Richard Hugo. But it seemed that only a few letters from each had survived his many moves. I couldn't shake the feeling that important aspects of his estate were either tucked away in a storage shed somewhere or gone for good.


"A literary executor was required. I had a vague idea of what is required of a literary executor. Negotiating contracts, editing, trafficking manuscripts, collecting royalties, and registering and renewing copyrights seemed like the typical duties that would be asked of me. But as the daunting task of placing his letters and manuscripts in a university archive loomed, I could see there was more to the role of a literary executor than just legal and administrative details. I was hesitant to take steps forward, because I wasn't sure what to do first; my father's will, unsigned, was vague and offered little instruction.



"As my father's son who had gathered together all his papers into boxes, I eventually tried to sort out all the papers in those boxes. But, after I had spread them out on the living-room carpet in an attempt to do the sorting, I found that I kept walking away from the boxes, overcome with a sharp sense of despair bordering on panic. It felt like I had lost my way, was trapped in a dense forest with no discernible path out. The archive had to be catalogued, I understood, for legal and administrative purposes, but why did I have to do it? What about my own work? I had chats with a few others, family and friends, in an effort to sort it all out. My mother put on Bob Dylan or some other record my father and I used to listen to together, and eventually I'd return to the living room and dip my hands back into the boxes. When it was all done, instead of feeling a sense of completion—of a job well done—I was depleted, overwhelmed by the task of going through my father's literary papers and their constant reminder of my father's absence. I felt invisible in the work, lost again in my father's long shadow.



"How does one go about managing a writer's legacy? And if that writer happens to be your father, how do you avoid resenting him for dumping all this work on you? In order to move forward, I needed to know what my father would have wished. I kept asking myself those questions. And I could only guess at the answers. As a young writer with little experience in the field, with only a few publications to my name, I felt unable to achieve a balance between doing what I thought I should do to keep the memory and wishes of my father intact and doing what it seemed I was supposed to do. As an executor, as a son, I had been left with only fragments of a map.



The article from which I obtained the above passages can be found in my Journal Volume 4(section B.1.1.(1)) Whoever deals with my literary estate could read that full article by Sebastian Matthews. But I don't anticipate these problems of Senastian Matthews arising for my son or the executor(s) of my literary estate will be necessary. Those who deal with my literary estate, my papers, my writings, may have different problems, if they have any problems at all. My papers have an order, a system, which should make any dealings and post mortem organization quite straight-forward. My will is also in order as well and all the relevant documents concerning all this paper in my study is set out in order. I have written the following general statement to cover my Will and my papers:



CHAPTER 12:

GUIDELINES FOR MY EXECUTORS AND OTHERS

IN THE EVENT OF MY DEATH


Preamble:


1. In the event of my death it is my wish that my body NOT be cremated, that no embalming process be employed, that it be buried within one hour's journey of the place of death, and that my burial and any service held in connection with that burial be conducted according to the custom of the Bahá'í Faith and under the direction of the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'í community where I reside or nearest to the place where I reside in the event of my death. I request also that the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahai community in which I reside(or nearest to where I reside) at the time of my death and the National Spiritual Assemblies of the Bahais of Australia Inc. and Canada be immediately notified of my death.


2. Next of Kin:____Christine Price_____________________________


3. Address: 6 Reece St., George_Town Tasmania 7253____________


4. Persons to be notified in the event of death or serious illness are:


_Daniel Price(son)___________________________________________


_VivienneWells(oldest step-daughter)_____________________________


_Angela Armstrong(youngest step-daughter)________________________


_DavidHunter(mother's sister's son in Ottawa Canada)________________


-_Judith Noack(first wife in Trenton Ontario__________________________


_Recipients of Annual Email/Letter( POFE Section VII Letters, Division XI.1-Annual Letters)______________________


5. Institutions/Groups:



5.1 Bahai Institutions: LSA of the Bahais of Launceston(see also letter from

NSA of the Bahais of Australia Inc

NSA of the Bahais of Canada


6. My Will is located at:


6 Reece St George Town Tasmania in the bottom drawer of my desk in my study in an A-3 file inside a metallic-edged file with a plastic-clip label. The label reads: "What To Do With My Writings At Death."


7. Other Documents/Items Relevant to My Will



These can be found in the bottom drawer of the desk in my study in a file marked 'What To do With My Writings At Death." A series of relevant items are found therein, as follows:

(a) a blank will form

(b) a copy of my will and an addendum to that will

(c) an instrument appointing my enduring guardian

(d) a National Mutual(NM) Trustee letter of 27/1/98 in relation to my Will/and a file from NM

(e) an email on "Bahá'í Funerals and Burial Practices"

(f) information and documents on organ and brain donation

(g) my ringstone in a small plastic box; (behind computer monitor beside photo of my mother)

(h) The Tasmanian PublicTrustee

(i) Bahá'í Wills and Burials: Chapter 13 of LSA Handbook

(j) other(no further items as of: 26/11/07).

___________________________________________________

8. My Executor is:


Christine Price and, if she has passed away, Daniel Price.

______________________________________________

c.c. See copy of this form in my computer under:

'My Documents>Diary>Everyday>Bipolar>Medical>My Will

__________

Dated:26/11/ '07 Signed:___________________________

________________

WHAT TO DO WITH MY PRINTED MATTER FILES & WRITINGS

WHEN I DIE

(June 2002 revised November 2007)



This 2nd edition of this statement on: WHAT TO DO WITH MY PRINTED MATTERFILES & WRITINGS WHEN I DIE was made more than five years after the initial edition in June 2002 is a more succinct edition. No attempt is made to provide a detailed outline of my writings as was the case in edition #1. To access this statement go to my computer directory and follow this series of steps below:

....My documents>Diary>Everyday>Bipolar>Medical>My Will-Writings.....



General Categories of My Writings A To D as Follows:



A.SEND TO:I leave it to my executors to decide if, and to whom, any of the hardcopy of the body of my writings and files are to be forwarded to anyone or any institution.



B.KEEP FOR YOUR OWN USE:



1. Grandfather's Autobiography

2. Mother's Poetry and Art File

3. Other: Executors' Decision.



C. ARCHIVE FOR SOMEONE or SOME INSTITUTION(s):



This section is to be kept by my executor(s) in a safe and secure place for some future time when (a) individual(s) and/or (b) institution(s) seek out any of my writings.



D. ALL OTHER FILES:



Executors' decision



Ron Price

26 November 2007



The executors will be one or more of my family members and/or a Bahá'í administrative body. For now, I leave what eventuates to Providence's mysterious Realm and what I trust and hope will come to me enshalla, as I am being refreshed "with the crystalline wine cup tempered at the camphor fountain."



At the heart of any artistic endeavor, writes Welsh novelist, poet and dramatist Emyr Humphreys, there is an empty space eager to be filled. This is not the same phenomenon as the vacuum that nature is reported to abhor. It seems to be a space in consciousness that our species longs to have filled and fill. And it goes beyond the primitive sociological truism that human kind is obliged to create rites and rituals in order to make its brief existence more tolerable and meaningful. The continuing desire to create within a given form, be it a building or a novel, a symphony or a play, a film or a sailing ship or, indeed, an autobiography, is a reliable indicator of the health of a given civilization. There has to be more to life's raison d'etre than the desire of a multi-national corporation, or a tourist board, to keep its work force happy with ten-pin bowling alleys or operatic spectaculars.



The health, the advancement, of a civilization, Emyr, now that's a good note to strike as I approach the end of this memoir. I also want to strike a note drawing on an ambiguous epigraph, mnemographia Bahensis, a term whose ambiguity lies in the difficulty of obtaining a precise and agreed on translation of this epigraph. I have utilized this epigraph for the final stage of this analysis aiming in these final words to make some concluding remarks on this one aspect, this one example, this one literary exercise from the total corpus of the literary and material manifestations of what has variously been called "collective," "cultural," "social," and "public" memory in the Bahá'í community.



I have provided here one manifestation, one presentation, that focuses on a commemorative, a personalized memorialization, an example, of autobiographical practice in the Bahá'í community over the four epochs of the second century of the Formative Age in the Bahá'í community with particular emphasis on the relationship between literary and material manifestations of memory as expressed in autobiography.


There are serious difficulties surrounding even the term "memory" in a collective context. Some see an inherent impossibility of dealing with any matter that is even a small part of a purportedly collective memory in the Bahá'í community without also considering issues of community or society and environment or landscape. I could divide this mnemographia Bahensis into two parts entitled: (a) Muse and Recall and (b) Remember and See reflecting two hypothetical components or aspects of this memoir. I could give this work, this autobiography, the sub-title: A Commentary on Memory, Community and Environment in the Bahá'í Community with Particular Reference to the Experience of a Pioneer in the Four Epochs: 1944 to 2021.



Such a title would reflect the breadth, complexity, and specificity of the many subjects I address in the context of the life of this pioneer. Mnemographia Bahensis in the context here is somewhat unusual in being both the product of a single author and a collection of a vast miscellany of over 2500 references. If a literary model for this combination of singularity and miscellany were to be sought in Bahá'í literature or literature about the Bahá'í Faith, it would be difficult to locate. Other literary works in what is now a vast corpus of literature on the Bahá'í Faith do not possess either the formal characteristics of this work that readers find here or the mode, manner and style within which I discuss and analyse the ideological implications of this content. To the extent that this memoir is the product of a single author, its origins lie in a list of places and settings, people and books, inspirations and visions too long to list here, but already alluded to at previous places in this text.



To the extent that this work is a miscellaneous compilation by a myriad of various hands, these volumes are a collection of memories that is a partial embodiment of a pluralistic approach to collective memory. This pluralistic approach seems not only necessary but also desirable when the subject is the Bahá'í Faith, a community of communities, if there ever was one, in which communal and individual interests are, or at least try to be, mutually reinforcing. People in this global community characteristically exhibit a tangle of local, regional, national and ethnic allegiances and I am but one example of this tangle, a tangle which is harmonized, untangled, in this work over several volumes.



Perhaps it is not too much to hope that in form as well as content this Mnemographia Bahensis reflects a Bahá'í internationalism through the eyes of one of its members, an internationalism that is simultaneously aware of the achievements and shortcomings of the history of the Bahá'í community down the road of its past and the attempts of individuals and communities to face the challenges and possibilities of creating a multi-ethnic, a multi-cultural vision of the future and a more pluralistic vision of the past.



Readers must recognize that a selectivity exists not only in what passes as tradition in the history of a community, but also what one places in a memoir like this, the narrative of an individual life. Readers also need to be conscious of the prognostications of George Orwell from his Nineteen Eighty-Four(1949). Orwell knew only too well that we all need to be aware of many things and especially the manipulation of history to serve the needs of the present and, just as important, to serve as a critical contribution to communal solidarity. The emerging architecture and the dozens of commemorative places around the globe are evidence of both the Bahá'í community's coming-of-age and an expression, a mould for popular and community consciousness.



If there is one theory of the nature and function of individual and collective memory underlying all of this memoir, it is the constructionist tradition both in sociology and psychology. The British psychologist F.C. Bartlett wrote in his Remembering: a Study in Experimental and Social Psychology (1932), that "when a subject is being asked to remember," very often the first thing that emerges is something of the nature of an attitude. The recall is then a construction, made largely on the basis of this attitude, and its general effect is that of a justification of the attitude." One must approach with some scepticism the notion of collective memory at the same time as one is convinced of the constructive nature of individual remembering. One must also concede that social organization gives a persistent framework into which all detailed recall must fit, and it very powerfully influences both the matter and the manner of recall.



In other words only individuals have the capacity to remember but, preliminary or prior to the process of individual recall, there exists a mental predisposition that has been at least partly shaped by a social or communal environment: to speak of the memory of a group is to reify and transcendentalize; to speak of memory in a group is to acknowledge both the singularity of individual recollection and its relation to a surrounding society or community—in this case the international Bahá'í community and especially, in the case of this memoir, its variants in Canada and Australia during four epochs as expressed through the eyes of one man who lived and breathed at the time.



Of the numerous other assumptions and characteristics that these several volumes have in common, one more is worth mentioning here. It is simply the hope that, in its small way, Mnemographia Bahensis may help to awaken an attitude of recall and create a framework of remembrance that will assist Bahais to maintain a conciousness of what at this stage of their history are often unique and fragile communities and environments. "Forgetfulness…is driven by an unshakable belief in progress," wrote Russell Jacoby in 1975. There exists a social and economic dynamic in which "oblivion and novelty feed off each other and flourish" in the same shopping mall as "planned obsolescence," "rampant subjectivism," "blind materialism, and superficial humanism." Memory, it could be said in 2007, is crucial to the reclamation of men and women's full humanity—their sense of a continuity, even a comradeship, between present, past, and future generations—without which the human race and its sustaining environments are doomed to become the victims of the pernicious cultural and personal values.



Many Bahá'í communities are especially prone to "social amnesia," to the "refusal or inability to think back" that undermines people's abilities to think critically, to use language accurately, to understand and exercise their democratic rights and responsibilities of participation in this global communitas communitatum. The Bahá'í community in nearly every locality in the world is a new community already old in acquiescence, in submission and obedience to the teachings of the Prophet-Founder of their Faith. This Faith is a society rich in history and values as well as hopes and resources, a vast and privileged community on the globe in which memory and understanding may yet so nourish right thinking and right action that they become, in the words of Margaret Avison's "Snow" (1960), the "rhizomes" that "quake" the "astonished cinders."



In autobiography, if anywhere in literature, we are expected to sense that these are texts inhabited by a living person, that an author who was particularly present to himself while he was writing is now present to us as we read. In autobiography, the self or subject is written as text. "Auto-bio-graphizing is the writing of the self as text".



I hope, dear reader, you enjoyed the visit, the text.



Ron Price

5 December 2007

End of Appendices.



CHAPTER 13

AN EPILOGUE TO MY EPILOGUE



Part 1:

The process by which a memoir or a poem emerges is partly the way Robert Frost puts it succinctly and which I quote approvingly here: "Sight, excite, insight." Like all good aphorisms this is only partly true. There is so much more to the process. I write about this process here, indeed, at many places in this book. "By the time you start to compose, more than half the work has been done," wrote Irish Poet Seamus Heaney. "The crucial part of the business is what happens before you face the empty page," he continued, "before the moment of first connection, when an image or a memory comes suddenly to mind and you feel the lure of the poem-life in it."       Most of the writing in this memoir took place in my late fifties and early sixties to mid-sixties. Much of the work, the living, had indeed been done: half, three-quarters, nine-tenths? Time would tell how long I would remain on this mortal coil.



The living, the thinking, two to five decades of preliminary writing, imagining, sometimes dry, sometimes fertile, literary experience--all of this set the stage. As Bakhtin argues, "In the world of memory, a phenomenon exists in its own peculiar context, with its own special rules, subject to conditions quite different from those we meet in the world we see with our own eyes." This perceptual filtering of memory results in a tendency to focus in on pleasant events and/or emotions while repressing painful or disturbing ones. The result is invariably a rose-tinted personal or social history, a heavily edited reconstruction of our past that often leads us down Housman's "happy highways" to those cosy halcyon days of childhood as depicted in yjr YB program The Waltons. Like Derrida's notion of language as a process of constant deferral, memory can only ever make distant reference to a past experience. I am aware of this universal tendency and I trust I have countered it in this multi-volumed work, at least to some extent.



Steven Rose points out that, "A thirty-year-old man does not remember his ten-year-old self in the same way as a fifty-year-old remembers his thirty-year-old self although the time-lapse is the same in each case. Only a few individuals seem to retain in adulthood the eidetic memory, the extraordinarily detailed and vivid recall of visual images, of their childhood." I am aware of these variations in memory quality but I find it difficult to comment on just how this phenomenon operates in my life and particularly in this memoir.



Part 2:

I was impressed with how James approached his autobiography in his Unreliable Memoirs published at about the time I began to collect my own writings for a possible posterity. "Most first novels are disguised autobiographies," he wrote. "This autobiography is a disguised novel. On the periphery, names and attributes of real people have been changed and shuffled so as to render identification impossible. Nearer the centre, important characters have been run through the scrambler or else left out completely. So really the whole affair is a figment got up to sound like truth. All you can be sure of is one thing: careful as I have been to spare other people's feelings, I have been even more careful not to spare my own. Up, that is, of course, to a point."



James says that he felt he had for too long been a prisoner of his childhood and wanted to put it behind him and that was the reason he wanted to "dredge it all up again without sounding too pompous." He did not want to "wait until reminiscence was justified by achievement." All attempts, James wrote with a strong vein of Australian humour and cynicism that runs through his entire work—indeed all his writing—"all attempts to put oneself in a bad light are doomed to be frustrated."



Proust argued that, while nostalgic memories may not be accurate, the experience of reworking memory traces can sometimes be even more powerful than the original experience. Memory can give the past a definition and shape by creating a personally meaningful narrative out of disparate and often irrationally recalled fragments. But one must be careful or the comment that the philosopher Santayana made about the Confessions of the famous Jean-Jacques Rousseau may apply to one's own efforts; namely, that candour and ignorance of self were obvious in reading them—and in equal measure.





Perhaps the historian Jane Welsh Carlyle was right when she said about autobiographies that: "Looking back was not intended by nature….from the fact that our eyes are in our faces and not behind our heads." One critic calls the personal memoir which many people write "a strange hybridization of the autobiographical genre" which is "seeking an intimacy with history that will give public meaning to personal identity." Looking backwards or forewards, I have certainly sought intimacy in my writing, intimacy whereever I could get it: with people, with history, with my own dear self-perhaps understanding is a better word. I see this piece of literature, this autobiography, as released from "literature" with its capital "L." I give it the broadest possible construction and set of genres and media/mediums in which to find expression. I utilize texts fashioned from letters and essays, diaries and journals, memoirs and stories, oral narratives and songs, photographs and assorted memorabilia. Texts, for me, are everywhere and the limits to the sources for study are only the limits of my imagination. This now multi-volumed autobiography is left in the hands of my executors and that new executor in cyberspace to decide what to do with what must be a many-millioned word ediface of verbiage.



Part 3:

Some autobiographers have little interest in the world outside themselves. One autobiographer, Frederick Grove, once said to the French writer Andre Gide: "I feel the same need for lying and the same satisfaction in lying that others feel in telling the truth."       I am less disturbed by this egotistical propensity for lying that Grove admits to because recent theories of autobiography ask us to look at such writing from the same viewpoints as fiction. Grove had an obsession with failure. This may have been due to his effort to write his autobiography. He experienced the difficulty which all autobiographers face in trying to shape their experience. His sense of failure is, in part at least, due to the limitations of the genre he had chosen to write within. In the end, though, Grove passes the test for a memorable autobiography. The test, writes Collins in her discussion of Grove's autobiography, lies in a writer's ability to deal with painful experience and to balance such moments of intense living with the mundane, unexceptional progress of daily events. Another test, although not one Collins refers to, but one I am consciously aware of as I write, is that the longer I have been away from places like the ones where I grew up and the many towns I lived in as well as many of the people I once knew—the more I bring them with me into the present when memory or circumstance presses the right button. What I bring into the present is some mysterious amalgam of tranquillity and tension, honesty and imagination, fact and fancy, show and vapour, illusion and reality.



As a result of this amalgam, this enlargement, this diminution, this very wide-angled-lens, this macro-photograph of a life what is considered worthy as social history or of literary examination for the examination of this life, my life, materials once thought valuable for only some narrow or not-so-narrow purpose can now be examined by scholars from a multitude of perspectives if, of course, they so desire. I have created a multilayered documentary to serve the expectations of multiple-user-audiences. I do not seek personal popularity but future utility by future readers by institutions and individuals associated with an emerging world order, an order which may very well be the last refuge of the tottering civilization I was born into and in which I lived my life over several epochs.



By reifying my own sense of vocation and avocation and my impressions of pioneering over four epochs, I can participate in both the short term and the long term, in the twentieth-and-twenty-first century efforts by the international Bahá'í community to spred this new Faith to every corner of the planet and contribute, in the process, to the planteization, the globalization, of humankind and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth. This participation has been taking place on the internet for well-nigh a decade and by the time this work is published in hard-cover, if it ever is, I shall be long gone from these syllables of recored time.



If experience is the name so many people give to their mistakes, I'd had plenty of that. My hope is that not too many readers will find these volumes of memoirs unapproachable due to their length, their vocabulary, their overly analytical nature, the absence of a simple and interesting storyline, the relative absence of the traumatic conveyed in narrative form--society's violence and sex and mine--the short supply of romance and the kind of adventure that readers have come to expect in a good novel or TV program. If I possessed the humour and masterly narrative style of, say, a Garrison Keilor or a Clive James this work could be more enchanting, hypnotic and funny. Sad to say, I do not. Readers will get what they see here. "What they see is what they get," to use a phrase come into common parlance in recent years Downunder. I am what I am and my style is what it is. My ruminations are rarely profound, never unique and at best, an original hotch-potch of stuff to satisfy me as I go along. Hopes and wishes are never quite enough to determine a polished and complete outcome, although they have helped me travel along the road of life and of writing with a multitude of tasks completed, many a conversation engaged in and sat through and a host of other stuff on a list too long to outline in even the briefest of fashions here.



If one is to stay creative and remain tuned-in to the richness of being, of living, of reflecting and anticipating, as one must if one is writing one's autobiographical story in the seventh decade of their life; and if one is not to yield to depressing tones of déjà vu, one has to admit it is often the fragment that offers an opening onto potential meaning. The fragment is imagination's stimulus to the opening of windows. For things in their meaningfulness, address us in a certain way. This is part of what we could call the realm of responsiveness, a realm that is an encounter, an encounter that is essentially a linguistic relationship.



Part 4:

To put this business of the importance of the fragment another way: the anecdote is a way of saying things that keeps the process fresh for the writer. But, in the end, this writer needs vision, needs a big picture what is now called by some a metanarrative. But all is not words; poetry and thinking belong together in speech and in their devotion to the relation which is silent in all our speech. Wallace Stevens expressed the wonder of the world and its shining by means of the poetic word in the following lines of his poem "The Idea of Order at Key West:"



It was her voice that made

The sky acutest at its vanishing.

She measured to the hour its solitude.

She was the sole artificer of the world

In which she sang. And when she sang,

The sea, Whatever self it had, became the self

That was her song, for she was the maker.



Stevens knew that there is no world other than the one we create, the one of which we are the makers. And I have made a world here in this memoir. It is I who did inhabit it and must inhabit it as I write and, as in the daily routine of life, it seems to me that if there is no joy, no happiness, it is hardly worth the exercise. The fragment, in this case the sea in Stevens' poem, does not deal with wholeness, although it may contribute to the completed account. Only through the fragment can one have access to a way of being that is dynamic, pluralistic and self-regenerating. To say this a little differently: lived experience is a critical shaping force in our lives. In some ways, this is only saying the obvious. Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer writes in her introduction to the autobiography of Naguib Mahfouz that for him "life was a search in which one must find one's own sign-posts." This we all must do; the statement hardly needs saying it is so obvious. Here I have put the stress on the fragment but vision creates reality and without vision the people perish. This writer would never have written without vision even if that vision was one he acquired in his youth and has come to understand and fill in more fully with the years. The words of Bertrand Russell in one of his letters are apt here: "I simply can't stand a view limited to this earth; I feel life is so small unless it has windows into other worlds. I like mathematics largely because it is not human." In my case, I found windows into other worlds through many channels: religion, philosophy, other social sciences and the humanities, the physical and biological sciences--imagination and memory.



As the decades went on, I found, I came to understand, a mythogenic zone, some interior metanarrative through which I could sift my experience, learn who I was and came to achieve some degree of unity with my environment and with others. This unity is found in the context of a constant conversation between unity and disunity, a conversation in which juxtaposition plays with omission and collision. At least that is the way I see and experience writing and its conversation with life. For literary artists both the struggle and the fulfillment of creative work consist in the transfiguration of matter and thought into art. As James Joyce put it, the sluggish matter of earth must somehow be transformed within the "virgin womb of the imagination." The flesh, to corrupt the biblical phrase slightly, must be made word.



Part 5:>br>
For writers, this transfiguration has always been especially difficult to effect. Each tries in their own way with very different results. Words, after all, are symbols divorced in a very direct way from the sources of their meaning and power. While music has an undeniable emotive force, and painting a potency contingent on mimetic qualities or the tangible interplay of visual rhythms and tones, words seem somehow distant and vague, mute, flat, comparatively colourless, especially to the minds and hearts of millions. After 50 years spent in classrooms where for success students must engage with the written word I am only too well aware of the difficulties masses of people have with printed matter. While the dramatic arts, including dance, appeal to both the aural and visual faculties and have, besides, an emphatic, public immediacy because they are performed in the flesh, words speak softly, sometimes inaudibly, and are notoriously bad dancers.



In his autobiography entitled Words Jean-Paul Sartre describes how as a child he discovered that words gave him a sense of power and a control of a world from which he felt divorced. The English poet Philip Larkin says much the same and he credits his immersion in books to his short-sightedness. In my case I found books and their contents a slowly maturing entity in my life. I read what I had to read to pass exams and get through to the next grade. But life's realities were not to be found in books except by sensible and insensible degrees into my teens and twenties. By my late twenties I had struck the gold-mine that was the world of books. The last 35 years has seen print take off like a jet-aircraft through my private and public life. I was too busy teaching and dealing with people until I was 55 to really get into writing in any significant way. But I have made up for this in the last decade(55-65), 1999 to 2009. Writing became a psychological necessity for a complex set of reasons that I explain elsewhere in this memoir. I did not sacrifice other things; other things lost their previous charm or demand, their role and responsibility. I was able to express my emotions and at the same time give them form and control as a poet like Larkin did; I was able to find relief from fears and anxieties as Sartre did in his literary work. Unlike Larkin, though, I do not have a fear of death nor his melancholy gloom; unlike Sartre I do not have his philosophy of atheism, his massive literary output nor his tendency to construct a series of personae to hide my real self and deal with a variety of correspondents.



No matter how much we understand the dynamics of our situation, we still get hurt and feel exasperated. No matter how strong our beliefs they must face the tribunal of our experience as a whole and this process is a daily one. In that tribunal analysis gives us the grammar for our concepts. But analysis is faced with the conundrum that at each moment of life's becoming that moment escapes our attempts to comprehend it. Autobiography is an attempt for me to deal with these hurts, these exasperations, this tribunal and gain some comprehension of my experience. In this last century of all the ones thusfar in the great human journey we are allowed to grow up and grow old in peace if we can learn to deal with those slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and our own weaknesses and failings and I am growing old with my solitude and with enough companionship to take whatever negatives arise in this solitude. And so:



Quietly I close the door of my study

and tap away on these keys making

the world, its past and mine, one in

many parts. Perhaps the rain ushers

in the evening or the news and I fall

asleep before my hours of solitude

return and I can cautiously unfold,

emerge with every atom in existence

and the essence of all created things,

with a thousand deep and meaningful

conversations behind me, ten thousand

books and more jobs and towns than I

want to count or try to remember as the

dish washer and pentium-4 hum in unison.



Part 6:

Ours is a culture of the fragment, like life itself, and the Bahá'í Faith is a culture of the unity of fragments. Like the baroque, the postmodern--our world--shares above all a taste for mixing, palimpsesting, hybridization and discontinuity. Some of the distinct features of both the baroque and the postmodern are: self-irony, self- parody, saying one thing and meaning another, a rejection of static definition, ambiguities of definition, a constant or at least a periodic, crisis of identity which people seem to have to go through, a sense of incompleteness in which the culture and the individual are never fully capable of explaining themselves. As much as I make an effort to frame this memoir in the context of a grandnarrative, a metanarrative, I feel that I am far from achieving such an accomplishment; indeed, the claim is in itself somewhat pretentious. I do not achieve any wholeness even though occasionally I am moved to make such a statement. I do not grasp the ultimate nature of things even though I might have such an ambition; one needs a certain degree of shamelessness to be able to claim, seriously, that one can capture the whole truth about the world in one's oeuvre.



Some of the distinct features of the Bahá'í Faith are its spiritual history, everywhere unfolded in the manner of a new and a single symphony, in a grand fortissimo now, in our time, with new harmonies and dissonances, irresistibly advancing to some kind of mighty climax out of which another great movement will, in time, emerge. I have always enjoyed a quality that I think it is useful for writers to have, namely, a sense of history. This sense of history emerged insensibly and sensibly in my late teens in reading Bahá'í history and studying history at high school and university: at least this was part of the start, part of the emergence and now, at the age of 65, this sense of history has a half a century of development in my life. Some writers have this sense of history and some don't. The American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald who wrote between the two wars had this sense. Some writers, like Clive James, are perhaps most brilliant on the subject they know best: themselves. I came across that clever turn of phrase in a reviewof Clive James three volume memoirs published between 1980 and 1990. I've enjoyed James on many other subjects beside himself for he is a man of remarkable erudition in the arts: at least some of the social sciences and humanities. He is certainly more well-read than I am, more humorous and witty. he is a useful mentor for this memoiristic exercise.



I lived my life in the shadow of the shattering legacy of Nazism and Communism, the two totalitarian movements that had a profound affect on and overshadowed the 20th century. Both these movements illustrate the dangers posed by ideologies that try to reduce the world's dazzling complexity to simplistic formulas. I sometimes come across superficial analyses of the Bahá'í Faith that impute this failing to this new world religion. My experience of more than half a century in this new world religion would suggest that, while there is a simplicity to this new Cause, part of the difficulty of working within it is, in fact, its dazzling complexity. Getting a handle on it is no mean achievement. The preciousness and fragility of humanism, indeed, of life itself, as a cultural, an existential reality is, it seems to me, mirrored in this Faith.



Part 7:

By my late fifties and early sixties I had become what Robert Scanlan in his review of Susan Sontag's play Alice in Bed called a graphimaniacal phenomena. I turned all of my minutest experiences into words-about-experience. My experience had become much like that of Marcel Proust who transmuted his life, during the years he spent in his cork-lined bedroom, into an all-but-endless narrative discourse that could and would be cut off only by his death. Some consider Proust's death a mercy. Perhaps mine will be as well. I would not want to last too long.



In quite another sense the now fashionable metaphor "the death of the author" has come to characterize the modern condition of fiction. The French literary critic Roland Barthes argues that writing and creator are unrelated. The method of reading a text that tries to connect the two may be apparently tidy and convenient but is actually sloppy, flawed and results in a tyranny of interpretive. A text's unity lies not in its origins, its creator, but in its destination, its audience. Without the meditative background that is the criticism of certain members of that audience, works become isolated gestures, ahistorical accidents and soon forgotten.



The historical Alice James, Henry James' sister, on whom the play Alice James is based, left no doubt that she welcomed the literal death that would bring her acute physical and emotional torments to a close. I, too, will welcome my literal death for different reasons than Alice James and I leave to readers whatever meaning they derive from this now far too long memoir.



This work I like to think, although I may be somewhat presumptuous in doing so, has some similarities to Virgil's Aeneid, Rome's national epic written in the years 29 to 19 BC. Just as Virgil's work envisaged a golden age so does this work; just as his work was permeated with the lack of reconciliation in the new Roman Empire just formed, so is this work permeated with the tragedy of the slowness of response of humanity to the Revelation of Bahaullah the slough of despond and the social commotion at play on the planet, the troubled forecasts of doom, the phantoms of a wrongly informed imagination at this crucial turning point in history, a turning point represented by these four epochs. As Virgil's Ecologue opened up new perspectives, I like to think this work will do the same. Some read the Aeneid with an optimistic view and others have gloomy readings. Inspite of my own forecasts of gloom and doom, I see my work as essentially positive, optimistic and with a view that sees a bright future for humanity. When Virgil wrote Rome was at the start of an empire, a system, a new order, and Virgil was preoccupied with the notion of unity as were the Romans after a century of wars and violence.



I see myself as writing in the context of "the first stirrings of that World Order of which the present Administrative System is at once the precursor, the nucleus and pattern." As the Romans needed insight into their predicament not cleverness, so is this our need. As I live and write in Australia I sometimes think that the essentially comic spirit of the Romans has been passed on by history's circuitous forces to the Australians. As I watch decade after decade of entertainment dispensed by the print and electronic media, I can't help but agree with that delightful American critic Gore Vidal that laughing gas is pumped into the lounge room of Australians, indeed all western countries, on a nightly basis. I suppose if you are going to go down, you might as well do so laughing.



In my early adulthood I was critical of this endless private pleasure but with the years, and certainly with the onset of late adulthood, I came to appreciate what Thomas Hardy called the "instinct toward self-delight." Some have this quality with an exuberance that bubbles up. I have more delight now that I do not have to deal with the pains and pangs associated with bi-polar disorder, with full-time work, with the idiosyncrasies of people in groups and with my incapacities for dealing with a wife and children.



Part 8:

As you, dear reader, move through the words, the fragments, the volumes of this work, you will think, dream and analyse with me. You will contour yourself to the disjunctures, inconsistencies, ambiguities and contradictions inherent in the language of my therapeutic and non-therapeutic forum. Know that here in these words-of-suffering, words-of-compassion, words of simple and complex thought, my psyche is attempting to draw you through a labyrinth such that you begin to reflect on your own frustrations, doubts, duplicities and suspicions in regard to the inexhaustibility of interpretation on the many fronts of your own lives. It is my hope that you will begin to recapitulate with a more finely tuned exactitude, the play of subtleties and pluralities found in the texts of your own lives--texts and lives which have all too often been dismissed as societally and therapeutically irrelevant or simply not thought about by you and by others. I would like to think that, as a result of reading some of the things here, the meaningfulness of readers' lives and their phenomenal existence will take on a heightened significance. One can but hope.



Perhaps these same readers will relate and behave in a different way than they have in the past after they have read this work. If understanding does not increase, perhaps my words, as Wordsworth says, will "uphold, and feed, and leave in quiet, like the power of gravitation or the air we breathe." So many of the world's words serve, he says, as "a counter-spirit, unremittingly and noiselessly at work to derange, to subvert, to lay waste, to vitiate, and to dissolve." Many of the world's words are simply lost in history's vast abyss due to disinterest, the burgeoning of print and the tempest that is the time we live in. I'm confident that this will be the case for this work among the great multitudes of humanity. A coterie of influence is the best one can home for.



Perhaps, to put it another way, this work will serve as a catalyst of and for intellectual complexity. My work is essentially what the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright's was: "a creative and cathartic exercise in selective memory that reveals as it conceals." Unlike Wright's work, mine is not a composite of truth and lies. Both my memoirs and Wright's were published in our mid-sixties; they are not psychobiographies although they provide tantalizing clues to our psychological development for anyone who is interested. Some of the complexity I refer to derives from this developmental process and some derives from my tendency to explore and define myself in the context of my society and my religion. To put this another way, these memoirs are but a version of my society's narrative and the narrative that is my religion--the Bahá'í Faith. These memoirs fashion, discover, recreate both my society and my religion through the collyrium of my own life. This collyrium allows me to steep a wide variety of subject matter in the hues of my own individuality without using that individuality as a means of self-display. At least that is the way I see it, although I'm sure there will be others with different views.



For the most part, indeed virtually throughout my entire work, I avoided recording my unfavourable opinions of many of my contemporaries both within the Cause and without. If I did voice a critical view the reader would have little idea if that view was held by someone they knew personally. This, it seemed to me, was one of the many aspects of dispassionate discussion. I would like to think and, indeed, I tried, to ground my criticisms of others and their views in facts that they would be unable to deny. Some I'm sure may have found this orientation of mine to facts had an exasperating facility, but given the complexity of what constituted a fact and the immense quantity of the availability of facts in the marketplace of ideas and values, beliefs and opinions the whole process often simply got lost in the grey wash of life.



In literary criticism the crucial New Critical precept of the intentional fallacy declares that a poem or, indeed, any piece of writing, does not belong to its author. Rather the work is detached from its author at birth and goes out into the world beyond the author's power to interpret or control it. The prose or poem belongs to the public. The oldest profession, some say, is the poet or storyteller and the second oldest is the critic or interpreter.



Both my society and my religion are but a soft wax and I must shape them as if I am installing a window into my own life. Perhaps it is the other way around and I am the soft wax which must be shaped or; again, perhaps the entire phenomenal reality is necessarily and unavoidably soft wax. These memoirs, whether wax or not, are a focalizing literature which takes a distinctive culture, a set of beliefs and ideas and writes them in individual characters, providing a privileged access to my own life, a moment in both my society's lifeline and the four epochs in the life of my religion. Over a lifetime my identity has certainly been like soft wax and this memoir is unquestionably concerned with identity. Complexity is but another name for identity and it is both problem and solution.



Part 9:

I do not want to indulge in overenthusiastic gestures and promises to readers in these pages. I recognise a certain untidy preference on my part for proliferation over prudence in my setting out of argument and concept here. The territory is difficult even if it is only my elaboration of a life, a society and a religion which has been part of the air I have breathed for over 50 years. There has come to exist in recent decades a bewildering range of disciplines in which models of memory are constructed and criticized and I do not want to discuss this massive milieux of literature and ideas. I do not cavalierly sweep exceptions and qualifications under the rug as I go about recalling all that I recall and analysing all that I analyse. The Bahá'í community and the secular society I describe both cover millions of individuals with the most diverse sensibilities. Their experience is a protean one and what individuals choose to marginalize and centre from their direct and vicarious experience, from their beliefs and values and attitudes and meanings is incredibly diverse. My intent here is to present what I like to think is a balance between the memory of my society and the Bahá'í community on the one hand and to draw on my own idiosyncratic view of history, mine and others. This whole exercise interests me only insofar as it serves living. There is a degree of doing history and a valuing of it through which life atrophies and degenerates, as Nietzsche said in the opening paragraph of his On the Use and Abuse of History For Life. It is my hope that this is not the case with me and this work.



Writers inevitably have hopes for their work. And my hope is that my words will serve as a conduit. Once readers get into my book, interest in the world I detail, along with its troubled times, themes and personalities, will I trust be whetted sufficiently to read -- or at the very least skim -- on and on. This epilogue to my epilogue is one final reflection on my life, my work and my religion. I hope this reflection is not too complex for readers. As diverse and as apparently fractured as it all is, it is umbilically connected in one body and from it, in time, I trust a living and breathing entity will emerge for the reading public. The sifting and winnowing of my life's experience, swimming as it has in many and different amniotic fluids, has taken place over many years.



One aspect of what seems to me to be a major shift that millions could outline but which I as a Bahá'í place in the context of my Bahá'í experience begins with the historian Jacob Burckhardt. He writes that in the Middle Ages "man was conscious of himself only as a member of a race, people, party, family—only through some general category." He goes onto say that this consciousness melted in the Renaissance. It seems to me this consciousness has been for many, and certainly for many Bahá'ís, has been recreated and added to it is the consciousness of the individual ego that is not subsumed by the group. Sometimes this consciousness is called individualism.



There is at least 100 more pages in this part 3 of my memoir/autobiography and anyone wanting the remaining pages--which I could not fit into this BLO space--can write to me at ronprice9@gmail.com and I will happily email the remaining pages.


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